Kurds At Mosul Say
Saddam Backers Have Left

OUTSIDE MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi troops and officials loyal to Saddam Hussein have abandoned the northern city of Mosul, leaving it open to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, a Kurdish commander told Reuters just outside the city on Friday.
"There are no Saddam regime followers left there, that's clear," the commander said at a checkpoint near the outskirts and eight miles from the center of Iraq's third biggest city. He declined to be named.
Reuters correspondent Sebastian Alison said an important bridge at Khazer, on the road to Mosul from Arbil, had been repaired. That would allow U.S. tanks which have been flying in to Kurdish-controlled Arbil to reach Mosul easily. Departing Iraqi troops had blown up the bridge some days ago.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking in Washington early on Friday Iraqi time, said small numbers of U.S. troops and Kurdish peshmerga guerrillas were entering Mosul. Reuters had seen U.S. tanks headed there on Thursday.
On another road near Mosul, at Umr Khan, Reuters Television producer Soheil Afdjei watched children picking through piles of abandoned Iraqi army uniforms, helmets, boots and munitions as some 300 Kurdish fighters waited to move into the city.
It was not clear how many fighters were already in Mosul, which lies 240 miles northwest of Baghdad. It is also 50 miles west of Arbil, the biggest Kurdish town, where the Americans have established a temporary base.
On Thursday, Kurds entered the key northern oil city of Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad. Reuters correspondents in the city said large numbers of peshmerga were still in control of Kirkuk on Friday. They saw no immediate sign of U.S. forces, who Washington says are in charge of the town.
Elsewhere in northern Iraq there was further evidence that the Iraqi frontline against the Kurds was collapsing following the fall of Saddam's authority in Baghdad on Wednesday.
CNN filmed hundreds of young men streaming southward on a road near Kifri, much further to the south, who said they had been soldiers around Kirkuk. They said their officers had abandoned them and they had discarded their uniforms and weapons to walk home, saying they had no wish to serve Saddam. Kifri, 100 miles northeast of Baghdad, lies close to the southern end of the "green line" that has divided Saddam's forces from the Kurds, who have ruled themselves in the northern mountains since the 1991 Gulf War.



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