Looting as Iraqis surrender at Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces Friday accepted the surrender of Iraq's 5th Corps in the northern city of Mosul.
Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, together with U.S. troops, moved into the city intending to crush any remaining resistance and stop the looting that has swept through the city.
Hoshyar Zebari, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), said the 15,000-strong Iraqi 5th Corps laid down its weapons, and many of the fighters were being held in Mosul. Some were seen walking out of the city, carrying nothing.
The 5th Corps offered to surrender Thursday, and U.S. and Kurdish forces officially accepted it Friday, reported CNN's James Martone in Mosul.
The 5th Corps began the war with somewhere between 20,000 to 30,000 men, according to coalition sources.
But looting has marred the relief produced by the surrender, as residents in the city center have been seen hauling away chairs and furniture.
Zebari complained that if U.S. officials had acted on the surrender offer more quickly, "These terrible scenes of looting could have been prevented." He added, however, that Kurdish and U.S. forces are now bringing the city under control.
At one point Friday, Kurdish civilians dressed as Peshmerga and tried to stop the looting.
U.S. officials say swift action was being taken to crack down on lawlessness and restore order.
The coalition was prepared for looting, knowing it was likely and in some cases understandable, given the oppression Iraqis have been living under, top U.S. officials said Friday.
Additional Kurdish and U.S. troops moved into Mosul late Friday afternoon, and engaged in a firefight with Iraqi paramilitary Fedayeen in downtown Mosul near government buildings.
No U.S. or Kurdish casualties were reported, and with senior officials of Saddam's regime out of sight, no official numbers of Iraqi casualties are being provided.
The U.S. military has set up an airfield outside of Mosul, and Peshmerga in combination with U.S. forces have secured strategic towns west of the city along roads going to Syria, Zebari said. Some Iraqi fighters have been using the roads as escape routes.
Civilians in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, were welcoming the U.S. and Kurdish fighters, according to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
With Mosul out of the fight and the northern city of Kirkuk in the hands of Kurdish forces fighting alongside U.S. special operations forces, the city of Tikrit appears to be the only remaining city in Iraq that may present a significant military challenge to coalition forces, a U.S. Central Command official told CNN.
Tikrit is the home town of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and is a center of power for the former ruling Baath Party.
The Republican Guard's Adnan Division had been charged with providing security for the city of Tikrit, but that division has been heavily worn down by coalition air power and military officials say it is not clear what remains or whether that division can offer a viable defense.
Significant fighting continues at the town of Al Qaim near the border with Syria, leaving coalition leaders curious as to what they are so furiously defending there.
Officials theorize there may be senior regime leaders there or perhaps a weapons of mass destruction site.