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Wedeman: 'Little resistance' in Kirkuk

'A good deal of looting going on'

CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman
CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman

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After hearing news from Baghdad, Kurds in Erbil, northern Iraq, celebrate the fall of Saddam. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports.
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(CNN) -- On the northern front of the war in Iraq, Kurdish forces swept into the oil town of Kirkuk, apparently facing minimal resistance.

CNN correspondent Ben Wedeman talked to anchor Carol Costello from Kirkuk, where there was celebration, and looting, in the streets.

WEDEMAN: I am in northwestern Kirkuk where it's something of a scene of pandemonium. You have cars driving up and down the street and people waving the yellow flag of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. There's a good deal of gunfire, but all of it celebratory, in the air.

Now our information is that the attack on Kirkuk began early this morning, about 9 a.m. local time, and it came from two directions with very little resistance by the Iraqi forces. On our way in, we actually only saw one dead body. By and large, it seems like it's been something of a cakewalk for the Kurdish forces.

We're seeing here, as we've seen in so many other places throughout Iraq, that there's a good deal of looting going on. I'm right up the street from a Pepsi-Cola factory, which is being torn to pieces by people who are throwing the files out the window, they're carrying out office furniture.

Everybody's walking away with whatever they can right now. I've got right in front of me two young men who are pushing a cart that is full of what looks like bolts of cloth. So, a bit of chaos here but not much of a fight.

COSTELLO: What about the Iraqi troops, Ben? Do you see many of them surrendering? What's happened to them?

WEDEMAN: We saw some Iraqi troops on our way here. They had surrendered, they had given up, but they were so demoralized the Kurds weren't even wasting their time trying to guard them. These were some very exhausted-looking Iraqi soldiers, both of them from the southern part of the country, who were walking aimlessly around a village. No attempt was being made to take them into custody.

Now here, where we are in Kirkuk, there is no sign of soldiers. They may have retreated to another part of the city, where we're told there has been some resistance, where the Kurds have yet to be able to enter. But at this rate, it seems like only a matter of time before they can secure the whole city.

COSTELLO: We know there are a lot of oil fields there, and we heard before the war began that many of them would be set on fire. But that doesn't appear to be happening.

WEDEMAN: In fact, we saw several of those oil wells on our way in. One did appear to be on fire, but we all saw others that were flaring, letting off the natural gas and having a big flame at the top as usual. There doesn't seem to be any sabotage.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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