Battle of Baghdad begins

EXPLOSIONS shook Baghdad just before midnight, rattling buildings and setting off car alarms just south of the city, followed by a series of blasts early today local time at the start of the sixth day of the US led war on Iraq.

EXPLOSIONS shook Baghdad just before midnight, rattling buildings and setting off car alarms just south of the city, followed by a series of blasts early today local time at the start of the sixth day of the US led war on Iraq.

It wasn't immediately clear what was causing the explosions, which were getting louder and closer to central Baghdad.

At the same time, the call to prayer rang from the city's minarets, and even the dogs stopped barking during what appeared to be a fierce bombardment.

Earlier in the evening, air raid sirens wailed and explosions were audible coming from the outskirts of the capital.


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Explosions were also heard just after midnight (2100 GMT) in the direction of the strategic oil city of Mosul in the north. Mosul is about 70 miles from the Turkish border.

Baghdadis spent the day digging in as coalition troops pressed forward in their advance toward the capital. Security and police officers dug trenches around military offices and set fires to conceal key targets with a haze of smoke.

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Anti-aircraft guns that had been removed earlier were placed once again on top one of the main gates to the Old Palace, a presidential compound hit in earlier attacks.

Announcers on Iraq's two TV stations started wearing olive-green military uniforms to introduce patriotic songs, archival footage of Saddam and old films with a patriotic message.

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