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April 10, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Baghdad Is Hit by Arson and Looting
Baghdad Is Hit by Arson and Looting; U.S. Troops Are Ordered to Stop the Plunder

The Associated Press


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BAGHDAD, Iraq April 10

Looting surged and government buildings were set on fire across Baghdad on Thursday while U.S. troops concentrated more on fighting pockets of resistance than on keeping order.

Tens of thousands of people young and old, men and women roamed the city in the second round of looting to hit Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein on Wednesday, with American forces making little or no effort to stop them as they carried off TV sets, refrigerators, carpets and other plunder.

Many of the looters moved into the city center from the poor outlying districts with wheelbarrows and pushcarts, intent on getting their share of the booty.

Some U.S. forces received word Thursday that they should begin trying to stop the looting, but they were only just beginning to devise ways to do so.

"There's civilian looting like crazy, all over the place. There just aren't enough of us to clear it out," said Marine Lance Cpl. Darren Pickard, 20, Merced, Calif., who was trying to protect an Iraqi police academy compound that was being picked over by looters.

Reinforcements had to be called in to help protect the compound's armory, which included hundreds of rifles along with grenades, knives, pistols and mortars.

At U.S. Central Command, Maj. Gen. Gene Renuart said that the Iraqis' anger toward symbols of the regime is not surprising, after years of oppression. He said the U.S. military's civil affairs teams will work with neighborhood leaders to try to restore calm while the Iraqis rebuild their police force.

He said curfews are possible, but "our intent is not to be heavy-handed, but it is to ensure that stability is brought back to the areas." He said the military hopes to establish "compassionate relationships with members of the community."

Meanwhile, smoke billowed from buildings across the city. Marines said Iraqi holdouts were setting fire to their own quarters and blaming the Americans. In at least one case, however, looters were seen setting fire to some buildings in the Interior Ministry complex.

U.S. troops occupied the Oil Ministry. But the nine-story Ministry of Transport building was gutted by fire, as was the Iraqi Olympic headquarters, while the Ministry of Education was partially burned. Near the Interior Ministry, the office building of Saddam's son Odai stood damaged, its upper floors blackened.

A building on fire near the Interior Ministry was rocked by deafening explosions apparently caused by ammunition and rockets stashed inside. The blasts went on for more than 15 minutes. No immediate injuries were reported.

In and around the capital, skirmishes flared between U.S. forces and Iraqi holdouts, and bursts of gunfire and explosions continued to echo through the city nearly a day after the people of Baghdad danced in the streets over the fall of Saddam.

Marines seized a palace on the northern outskirts of the capital early Thursday in a fierce, seven-hour battle that demonstrated all too clearly that the fighting is far from over in Iraq. One Marine was killed and as many as 20 were wounded.

Marines also battled holdout fighters at a Baghdad mosque and the house of a leader of Saddam's Baath Party.

Marines set up checkpoints at the heart of the city, conducting thorough searches of all vehicles and body searches of passengers and drivers. Some Marines crouched behind sandbags, weapons at the ready, as the searches were conducted.

Around the city, looters hit stores and government installations, including the Irrigation Ministry, the Transport Ministry, the Air Force officers club, the government computer center, the Olympic hospital and state laboratories.

The German Embassy, a three-story off-white building in the center of al-Karada district, was also sacked. Looters emerged with air conditioners and computers. Looters also cleaned out the French Cultural Center and Odai's house, the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera reported.

In the city center, donkey-drawn and horse-drawn carts were seen loaded with office furniture, TV sets, appliances and carpets.

In Saddam City, a poor, densely populated Shiite Muslim section of Baghdad, residents set up roadblocks and confiscated looted items, sending them to a mosque, said Imam Amar Al-Saadi.

On Wednesday, after looting first broke out in Baghdad, U.S. Central Command said American civil affairs troops were there and in other cities to help Iraqis move away from lawlessness and re-establish order.

However, Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said he expected much of the unrest to die down on its own as the euphoria over the regime's collapse wore off. "We believe that this will settle down in due time," he said.

Around the city, most motorists were flying white flags. Some public buses were even running.

The Interior Ministry offices were being turned into a command center for U.S. forces, who went through them to see what they find.

Saddam pictures, posters, calendars and oil paintings adorned practically every surface. Some pictures of his face had been cut out or punched in with fists before U.S. forces got there. Some Marines, encountering large pictures of Saddam with his face cut out, posed for pictures with their own faces thrust through the hole.

Two floors down from the Interior Minister's office was the office of an unidentified three-star general. On the bookshelf behind his desk sat a gold-embossed, green-leather volume dating to the 1990s. It resembled a family photo album, but the pictures page after page were of bombed-out buildings and charred, mangled corpses.

On Wednesday, in a scene that called to mind the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Marines used a winch to pull down a 40-foot bronze statue of Saddam and break it in half. Iraqis attacked the statue with sledgehammers and sticks, danced on its fallen chest and face, and threw garbage on it.

Others dragged the torn-off head through the streets, while children beat it with shoes and slippers a grave insult in the Arab world.

Iraqis and Marines hugged, high-fived or shook hands. Some of the Marines held their rifles aloft in a victorious pose.

"Now my son can have a chance in life," said Bushra Abed, pointing to her 2-year-old son, Ibrahim.

EDITOR'S NOTE Associated Press writers Ravi Nessman and Alexandra Zavis with the Marines in Baghdad also contributed to this report.


photo credit and caption:
Iraqis show their new possessions as hundreds went on looting government buildings in Baghdad Wednesday April 9, 2003. At police stations, government ministries, the headquarters of the Iraq Olympic Committee, looters unhindered by any police presence made off with computers, furniture, telephones, even military jeeps. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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