CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar April 12 —
With wild crowds ransacking everything from hospitals to military
armories, Iraq is in a frenzy of vigilante justice despite efforts
by coalition troops to rein in the chaos with a mixture of curfews,
cajoling and force.
U.S. Central Command in Qatar insists it has enough soldiers and
training to fill the void left by a vanquished Iraqi government and
its no-show police. But looting free-for-alls from Baghdad to Mosul
underscore the magnitude of the challenge ahead.
"Tell the Americans to stop the killing and the looting. We can't
live like this much longer," said 41-year-old Baghdad resident
Jabryah Aziz. "I need to feel safe so I can go and collect my food
More towns plunged into anarchy Friday with coalition troops
continuing their advance and President Bush declaring Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein "no longer in power."
Ambulances were hijacked at gunpoint. Banks were plundered with
notes bearing Saddam's portrait shredded into confetti. University
computer centers were stripped to their wall sockets. Some looters
even rifled through the extensive gun collection of Saddam's son
Commanding Gen. Tommy Franks tried to address the problem with a
directive Friday instructing U.S. troops to restore order in the
Marines were patrolling there to defend hospitals, while to the
north, in the newly taken city of Mosul, coalition forces were
enforcing a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Throughout the country, meanwhile,
the coalition was encouraging local religious leaders to urge
Many Iraqis, however, ignored the pleas for order that blared
from mosque minaret loudspeakers. Others took matters into their own
The people of Baghdad's Karadeh neighborhood, fed up with
thievery, grabbed Kalashnikov rifles, set up roadblocks and checked
passing cars for stolen goods. Then they confiscated the loot and
beat the culprits. Residents in Mosul, brandishing clubs, did the
same, returning stolen booty to local mosques for safekeeping.
In Mosul, which was abandoned Friday by Iraqi fighters without a
shot, civilians blamed U.S. forces for not quickly rolling into the
city and establishing order.
"Why are you late? Why are you late?" people shouted at an
incoming U.S. Special Forces convoy.
Outnumbered in Baghdad by 5 million residents, some coalition
forces stood by impassively while Iraqis absconded with televisions,
air conditioners, tools, office furniture, potted flowers waving to
American soldiers all the while.
"We'll maintain security as well as we can, but we are not a
police force," said Col. Steve Hummer, commanding officer of the 7th
Some say the looting was to be expected and will eventually
subside, especially when there is nothing left to steal. But the
military is taking it seriously, said Army Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green,
a spokeswoman for the Central Command.
She said the coalition can draw on military police and other
troops trained in crowd control, adding that troops were being
brought in from the battlefield to handle policing efforts.
If additional manpower is needed, Nielson-Green said members of
the Army's 4th Infantry Division just arriving in Kuwait, after
being denied access to Iraq through Turkey could be tapped.
Franks' directive calls for the continuing operation of
government offices, religious centers, schools and hospitals.
But officers said it gave no clear instructions on how to halt
So far, U.S. Marines have managed to secure some Red Cross
centers in the capital. But elsewhere in the city Friday, the
ministries of Education, Industry, Trade and Planning were looted
and set ablaze. A nursing college and an engineering college in
Baghdad were also targeted.
Critics said the Americans should have been more prepared for the
"I think we did much less clear thinking about what we should do
after we declare victory than what we did before we declare
victory," said David R. Segal, director of the Center for Military
Organization at the University of Maryland.
He said he expects other nations to help police the country until
the Iraqis can take over.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of Central Command warned that the
fight to restore order could get bloody for those who don't comply.
At a briefing Friday, he described how bank looters in the southern
city of Basra drew weapons when challenged by coalition troops and
"Now, I'm not suggesting that's the only solution, but there are
certain behaviors that we are not tolerating out there and that we
believe the Iraqi population will also not tolerate over time,"
|Kurdish fighters and civilians
loot an Iraqi military storage on the outskirts of the
oil-rich town of Kirkuk, Friday April 11, 2003, carring off
sacks of rice and vegetable oil. Iraq's military withdrew from
Kirkuk after an offense of Kurdish troops aided by U.S.
special forces. (AP Photo/Peter
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