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Brent Sadler: Sharp contrast in northern Iraq

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CNN's Brent Sadler

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CNN's Brent Sadler reports coalition forces are gearing up to battle Iraqi troops entrenched in northern Iraq. (April 9)
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NORTHEASTERN IRAQ (CNN) -- As scenes of cheering and looting come out of eastern Baghdad, Iraq's northern front remains a war zone with continued airstrikes and firefights between fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein and U.S. forces allied with Kurdish Peshmerga militia.

Brent Sadler, in northeast Iraq about 90 miles from Baghdad, spoke with CNN anchor Bill Hemmer on Wednesday about the battles and how what's happening in Baghdad may or may not affect the northern front.

BRENT SADLER: There are still forces here committed to the regime of Saddam Hussein. They are still covering a huge area of territory here in northern Iraq.

Just behind me, over here, you will see a 50-caliber machine gun in the back of the truck. Those are U.S. special forces there, not Peshmerga [Iraqi Kurdish militia], on the ground working in small units.

The U.S. forces have just begun opening fire with mortar rounds against ridge line positions still being held by Iraqi troops.

This follows intense airstrikes over the past several days against this southeastern sector of the northern front. What we're seeing here is a recently abandoned Iraqi position.

But really, all of this brings up the question: How much of what's happening in Baghdad is getting to these remote locations?

We are seeing the very fabric of the regime collapsing with these pictures that we've had in the past hour -- of people going on the streets celebrating and, in most cases, looting the areas around Saddam City, a very poor Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad.

But here in the north you have a really sharp contrast. They are preparing for battle here to take these areas behind me over there, which is about 90 miles north of Baghdad.

The Iraqi forces have only pulled back over night about 6 or 7 miles, and they're still in this territory behind me.

So U.S. special forces are drawing up battle plans with the Peshmerga to try to push those Iraqis away.

At the same time, the U.S. and Kurdish forces here hope the news of what's happening in Baghdad has a ripple effect through the north in places like Mosul, Tikrit and Kirkuk -- all major cities still being held by people loyal to Saddam's regime.

The hope is that the people who are holding these lines and are committed to Saddam will simply pack up the fight.

But there's no sign of that happening on the ground, here, as things stand now. We are expecting Iraqi positions to face more heavy airstrikes across the northern front.


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