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Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.


Interactive timeline, image gallery

Recall key dates, browse defining photos from six weeks of combat in Iraq. (Requires Flash)


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Saturday, April 5

U.S. forces advance on Baghdad


U.S. forces carried the war in Iraq into Baghdad this week, setting the stage for a final push that could lead to victory.

A nearly weeklong pause while frontline troops rested from their march through the Iraqi desert ended. All week, U.S. and British planes and artillery bombed Iraq's elite Republican Guard divisions guarding the capital, trying to smooth the path into the city.

American troops seized Saddam International Airport and renamed it Baghdad International in a symbolic blow to the Iraqi leader's prestige. On Saturday, a column of U.S. tanks made a foray into the city and U.S. military officials claimed up to 3,000 Iraqi fighters were killed.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Sunday that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government still controls large sections of the capital but predicted that Saddam was on his way out. U.S. forces had blocked several main roads leading into the city.

"There is a sort of fear that he has come back so many times before, but he is not going to make it this time,'' Wolfowitz said in an interview with Fox News.

The threat of suicide bombings has led U.S. troops to crack down on civilian vehicles that approach military positions. The military is investigating an incident Monday in which guards opened fire on a van full of civilians, killing 11, including women and children. But a suicide bombing in western Iraq on Friday killed three soldiers and an Iraqi woman, underscoring the continuing danger.

Before U.S. troops began rolling toward Baghdad, a team of Army and Navy commandos stormed a hospital in Nasiriyah on Tuesday night and rescued American prisoner of war Jessica Lynch, a 19-year-old Army private from Palestine, W.Va. Lynch was part of a convoy that came under fire March 23.

The bodies of eight other members of the Army's 507th Maintenance Company, including Pfc. Lori Piestewa, the first American servicewoman killed in the war, were found buried near the hospital where Lynch was rescued.

In southern Iraq, pockets of militia members loyal to Saddam were still fighting U.S. and British troops, though it appeared Basra and the port city of Umm Qasr were closer to being secured. Food and water were being distributed in areas under U.S. and British control.

Four journalists reported missing in Baghdad turned up safe Tuesday in Jordan after they were released from an Iraqi jail where they had been held on charges of espionage. But Michael Kelly, a Washington Post columnist and editor-at-large of the Atlantic Monthly traveling with the 3rd Infantry Division near Baghdad, was killed when his Humvee drove into a roadside canal Thursday night. An Army soldier also died in the crash. David Bloom, a correspondent for NBC, died of a blood clot Sunday while on assignment in Iraq.

Diplomacy: Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Turkey, the former Yugoslavia and Belgium to discuss rebuilding Iraq after the war ends. Debate continued within the U.S. government and among its allies over how the reconstruction effort would work. Many European countries are pushing the United Nations to take the lead in setting up a new government in Iraq, but some U.S. officials want the United States to keep control of the project.

White House: President Bush visited Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Thursday to meet with relatives of Marines killed in Iraq and to rally the troops based there. White House officials announced that Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair would meet next week near Belfast, Ireland, to discuss the invasion of Baghdad and the postwar period.

Congress: The House and the Senate each passed slightly different versions of an emergency spending bill to pay for initial costs of the war and early stages of the rebuilding. The House version, which was closer to Bush's original request, would spend $77.9 billion on the Pentagon, homeland security and emergency aid to airlines. The Senate version would cost nearly $80 billion. Lawmakers hope to get a compromise version to Bush by Friday.


(Contributing: Derrick DePledge, GNS.)