April 4, 2003 at 1:40 PM CST - Updated June 17 at 7:00 AM
B A G H D A D, Iraq, April 4 — Baghdad's Saddam International Airport has been renamed the "Baghdad International Airport" after coalition forces seized control of the strategic aerial gateway as key highways into the center of Baghdad were sealed off by advancing U.S. ground forces.
Calling it the "gateway to the future of Iraq," Army Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks announced that coalition forces now occupied the airport.
Despite the name change, U.S. troops continued to suppress some opposition at the facility — which is located about 10 miles from the center of Baghdad — said ABCNEWS' Bob Schmidt with the 3rd Infantry Division, reporting from the airport.
"This is a huge complex, honeycombed with bunkers," said Schmidt. "Clearing the entire airport will take a while.
The airport seizure came as U.S. ground troops advancing along an eastern route toward Baghdad encountered heavy resistance during a five-hour pitched battle with Iraqi troops, said ABCNEWS' Mike Cerre, embedded with the 1st Marine Division outside Baghdad.
Also today, Army Central Command in Qatar confirmed a car exploded near a coalition checkpoint in western Iraq, killing three coalition soldiers, a pregnant woman and the driver.
In downtown Baghdad, the mood has changed significantly in the past 24 hours, ABCNEWS' Richard Engel reported from the capital.
Engel confirmed reports of tension and chaos, as residents near the airport fled toward central Baghdad, away from the fighting.
Residents of Baghdad woke up to a city without electricity, said Engel, and the mood was "tense" as Iraqi Republican Guards, Baath party officials and paramilitaries could be spotted around the city.
A combination of special operations forces and the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions led the attack on the airport, sources said, and were followed by elements of the 3rd Infantry Division and more of the 101st Airborne. They wanted to preserve as much of the airport as possible so they could use it to supply U.S.-led troops around Baghdad.