April 4, 2003
CAIRO, Egypt -- Hundreds of targets -- some overt and others unexpected -- await U.S.-led forces in Baghdad, a sprawling city of 5-million people.
"In every district, the ruling Baath Party has at least one headquarters, recently supplied with different kinds of weapons, ranging from pistols to (rocket-propelled grenades), to be used by party members against the invading forces," said Hafed Nejim, an Iraqi opposition leader in exile.
Even in peacetime, these headquarters are guarded at night by several party members. Each building is stocked with Kalashnikov assault rifles to defend the regime against any attempt at mutiny, demonstration or a coup, Nejim told the Associated Press by telephone from London.
He said the Iraqi regime has recently ordered some residents to evacuate their houses so antiaircraft guns can be placed on their roofs.
Though a considerable number of party members are expected to evade the fighting, others will put up resistance -- especially those who have been deeply involved in suppressing the Iraqi people, or those who forced citizens to fight in the 1980-88 war with Iran, said Harith Ibrahim, an Iraqi opposition leader in Cardiff, Wales.
Such groups, including Saddam's Fedayeen, the paramilitary fighters paid relatively well by the regime, "are fighting for their lives," Ibrahim said.
"One should expect every school, mosque, hospital, sports club and university to be turned by the Iraqi regime into a bastion for resistance," he said.
Allied forces will have to fight their way past three main military targets in Baghdad, which are defended by Republican Guard units.
Al-Rasheed military camp, at the southern outskirts of Baghdad, is a huge compound with an air base. It is defended by Republican Guard units, said Huron Mohammed, an Iraqi writer in London.
The northern door to Baghdad, Al-Taji military camp, 22 miles outside the city, also is guarded by a Republican Guard unit, he said.
At the western route to the city, the Republican Guard defends an area that extends from Abu Ghraib, 12 miles west of the capital, to Ar Ramady, 63 miles west of Baghdad.
"However, entering Baghdad would be easier than entering Basra and other cities," Mohammed said. "There are more than 50 main roads that lead to its center."