More than 40 U.S. tanks and other armored vehicles drove through a large part of southwest Baghdad, mainly to show Iraqis that the U.S. military can move about the capital at will.

Meanwhile, southwest of Baghdad, U.S. forces captured the abandoned headquarters of a Republican Guard division, and in the north, U.S. forces and Kurdish fighters moved on the key oil towns of Mosul and Kirkuk.

U.S. FORCES IN BAGHDAD

The 25-mile drive through industrial neighborhoods of southwestern Baghdad drew fierce but relatively ineffective resistance from Iraqi forces, U.S. officials said. They said hundreds and perhaps thousands of Iraqi fighters were killed and many of their vehicles destroyed. U.S. forces entered from the south and moved in a northwesterly arc to meet up with U.S. Army troops that Friday captured Baghdad's international airport.

Even as U.S. forces in some places were being attacked, in other neighborhoods they were welcomed. Air Force Maj. Gen.Victor E. Renuart Jr. said the foray "was a clear statement of the ability of coalition forces to move into Baghdad at the time and place of their choosing." U.S. forces left the capital without trying to take any turf and enjoyed total air protection, with no opposition in the skies above Baghdad.

There was more bombing of the capital city beginning Saturday night and residents continued an exodus that began early Friday.

HUSSEIN'S GOVERNMENT

As night fell Saturday, Iraqi militiamen and troops reemerged and took up positions in Baghdad. Members of Saddam's Fedayeen, a militia loyal to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and led by his son Uday, appeared downtown for the first time since the war began, wearing their distinctive black uniforms.

The Iraqi leadership disputed any important U.S. presence in Baghdad. Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf said Iraq has regained control of the airport -- which on Friday he denied his government had lost -- and dismissed as lies reports that U.S. forces had entered the city of 5 million people. He criticized the Arab network al-Jazeera for airing footage he said falsely suggested U.S. control of the airport. "We have defeated them. In fact, we have crushed them," he said of U.S. invaders.

Iraqi television showed more tapes of Hussein meeting with officials and his sons and Sahhaf read another statement from Hussein.

SOUTH

There was fierce fighting in Karbala, a city about 50 miles south of Baghdad, where militiamen loyal to Hussein have targeted U.S. supply convoys. The city was bypassed in the early fighting, but Army divisions now are flushing out militiamen.

In Aziziyah, about 40 miles southeast of Baghdad, Marines searched a school for possible chemical and biological weapons after receiving a tip from an Iraqi prisoner of war.

In the southeastern town of Suwayrah, Army units captured the virtually abandoned headquarters of the Medina Division of the Republican Guard.

In Basra, warplanes bombed the home of Gen. Ali Hassan Majeed, Hussein's cousin, who allegedly masterminded a chemical weapons attack on rebellious Kurds in 1988.

-- James L. Rowe Jr.

Iraqi soldiers heading to the front cheer as they pass by Baghdad's Palestine Hotel.