After spiriting to safety seven missing American troops unexpectedly released by a possibly leaderless band of Iraqis, U.S. forces met sporadic resistance Sunday in their move on Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam Hussein.

Deliverance came as the prisoners' hopes of rescue were dwindling after three weeks of captivity. "I was getting to the point where I believed they would have killed us," said Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30, of El Paso, Texas, who had been shot with a single bullet that went through both her feet.

Marines assembled on Tikrit's outskirts and sent units in and out of the city, drawing occasional small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, not the intense battle that once seemed likely there. Even so, U.S. forces did not try to occupy Tikrit right away, Pentagon officials said.

We'll get the latest news from our FOX News global team of correspondents and analysis from:

• Brad Baker, former U.S. Army Ranger and Gulf War Veteran
• Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Darrell Whitcomb
• Lin Todd, former military planner and Middle East specialist
• Kimberly Miller, PFC Patrick Miller's sister
• Tim Brown, GlobalSecutrity.org
• Athol and Jane Riley, parents of U.S. Army Sgt. James Riley
• Ronald Young Sr., and Kaye Young, parents of recovered POW Ronald Young Jr.
• Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House
• Steven Brill, author of After

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