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Wednesday, April 09, 2003
THE B I R D S ARE S I N G I N G !!!!!!!!!

Eerie Quiet as U.S. Forces Squeeze Baghdad

Updated 3:18 AM ET April 9, 2003

By Sean Maguire

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Sporadic shooting and tank fire sounded across Baghdad on Wednesday as U.S. Marines combed through a teeming Muslim Shi'ite district in the northeast and Army infantry prepared to push in from the west of the city.

"But it's eerily quiet," said one Reuters correspondent in the city center. "You can actually hear the birds singing."

After one of the quietest nights since the U.S.-led war to topple President Saddam Hussein began on March 20, thousands of Marines moved block by block through the urban sprawl of Saddam City, squeezing out resistance.

Across the capital, parts of the 1st Brigade of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division prepared to thrust into the center of the city from their base at the international airport in the southwest.

The infantry's 3rd Brigade in the northwest was sweeping down to the west of the Tigris river which divides the Iraqi capital and armored units of the 2nd Brigade, which hold a presidential palace compound in the heart of Baghdad, were slowly expanding their operations. "I can see American troops driving around in Humvees in the compound. They are that confident," said Reuters correspondent Khaled Yacoub Oweis, speaking from the Palestine Hotel which overlooks Saddam's presidential site across the Tigris.

Iraqi Information Ministry officials who have shadowed foreign reporters through nearly three weeks of war were nowhere to be seen at the hotel on Wednesday.

Streets around the Palestine Hotel, which is situated on the eastern bank of the Tigris, were empty.

"We can't hear anything. Not even cars," correspondent Khaled Oweis said. "Near to us we can hear occasional machinegun fire, but it's eerily quiet.

"You can actually hear the birds singing. In peacetime you never heard them singing."

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