U.S. military sources say U.S. troops have launched an assault on Iraq's Saddam International Airport, only 20 kilometers from the center of Baghdad.
Witnesses say they saw heavy artillery fire around the airport, located southwest of the city. Some reports say dozens of people have been killed.
Reports earlier today (Thursday) said some U.S. troops are less than 10 kilometers from the edge of Baghdad. The U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division has been making rapid progress toward Baghdad from the southwest as other coalition forces approach the city from the south and east.
In contrast to the U.S. reports, Iraq's Information Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahhaf says coalition forces are, in his words, "nowhere near Baghdad."
The electricity went out in large parts of Baghdad today (Thursday) following loud explosions around the Iraqi capital not long after nightfall. The head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, told reporters in Washington that coalition forces did not target the city's electrical system.
General Myers added that Saddam Hussein's government has lost control of about 45 percent of Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there will be "no deals" with the leaders of the Iraqi regime. However, he said Iraqi officers and soldiers can still survive and help to rebuild their country if they turn on "the condemned dictator" as he put it, and "help the forces of Iraq's liberation."
Meanwhile, U.S. forces near Karbala are searching for the pilot of an American fighter jet that went down over central Iraq late Wednesday. The Central Command said today that the jet may have been shot down by a U.S. Patriot missile, which is normally launched to intercept an Iraqi rocket.
Central Command is also investigating another possible "friendly fire" event involving a coalition aircraft and coalition ground forces. One U.S. Army soldier is reported dead and several others reported injured or missing in connection with the incident.