— By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Hassan Hafidh
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Gangs of looters, many of them armed, roamed
the streets of Baghdad on Thursday, ransacking offices and
government buildings as U.S. troops looked on and breaking into the
houses of top aides of Saddam Hussein.
Looters drove tractors, pick-up trucks and trailers -- and even a
large bus -- up to a large villa belonging to Tareq Aziz, Saddam's
deputy prime minister.
They stole everything from furniture and paintings to chandeliers
and curtains, and stripped the electrical wires from the villa's
Aziz's library was also ransacked. Among the volumes left behind
by looters were the complete works of Saddam in Arabic, a book on
geopolitics by former U.S. President Richard Nixon, and the Mafia
novels of Mario Puzo, author of "The Godfather."
Many of the looters were from the Saddam City area, home to about
two million impoverished Shi'ite Muslims.
Asked why he was robbing the house, one man wordlessly pointed to
his open mouth to indicate he was hungry.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was
concerned about the looting of hospitals.
"The hospitals themselves have come under attack for the purpose
of looting. There are lots of people carrying weapons around and
they make it very difficult for civilians in need of medical care to
actually reach the hospitals," ICRC spokesman Roland
Huguenin-Benjamin in Baghdad told CNN.
HOUSE OF "CHEMICAL ALI" LOOTED
A house in southern Bahdad belonging to Saddam's notorious cousin
Ali Hassan al-Majid -- known as "Chemical Ali" -- was also
Majid, who earned his nickname for overseeing the use of poison
gas against Kurdish villagers in 1988, was put in charge of the
defense of southern Iraq by Saddam. U.S. forces say he may have been
killed in a bomb attack in Basra at the weekend.
One man, who said he was an Iraqi poet and gave his name as Abu
Eyaih, carried off two of Majid's walking sticks. He said he was
taking the sticks as a gesture of contempt toward Majid, who
sometimes walked with the aid of a stick.
"I'm not here to loot the house of this criminal Ali Hassan
al-Majid. I took these two things as a symbol to humiliate him," he
"I am feeling sad that some Iraqis are looting furniture and
equipment of public buildings. They don't belong to Saddam, they are
the property of the Iraqi people. We should keep them where they are
for the new government to use when it assumes power."
The Ministry of Trade was set ablaze by looters, and flames could
be seen pouring out of first floor windows of the building, close to
the east bank of the Tigris river. The finance ministry was also
engulfed in fire on Wednesday.
A nearby Interior Ministry building housing an office for
identity cards was also in flames, as people carted off furniture
Several diplomatic buildings were robbed, including the German
embassy, the French cultural center, and the house of the Finnish
ambassador -- where one looter staggered out carrying an
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