BAGHDAD, Iraq April 12 —
U.S. forces reopened two strategic bridges Saturday in the heart
of Baghdad and crowds of looters surged across taking advantage of
access to new territory that had not already been plundered. U.S.
forces did nothing to stop them.
Iraqis expressed increasing frustration over lawlessness in the
capital city, which continued for a fourth straight day since the
arrival of U.S. troops and the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Looters have ransacked hospitals and schools and set fire to several
"The Americans have disappointed us all. This country will never
be operational for at least a year or two," said Abbas Reta, 51, an
engineer and father of five.
"I've seen nothing new since Saddam's fall," he said. "All that
we have seen is looting. The Americans are responsible. One round
from their guns and all the looting would have stopped."
On the chaotic streets of the capital Saturday, it appeared
American troops were doing nothing to curb the looting feverishly
under way on every major boulevard. Troops could be seen waving
looters through checkpoints and standing idly in front of buildings
while they were being pillaged.
Looters swarmed over the Al-Rasheed and the Al-Jumhuriya bridges
across the Tigris River, which divides Baghdad. They pushed into
several government buildings, including the Planning Ministry, which
sits on the edge of the old palace presidential compound on the
river's west bank.
U.S. army troops and armor blocked access to the main palace
grounds. Looters entered some buildings within the presidential
compound on Saturday, though most had been damaged during the
coalition's air and missile campaign, and some were smoldering until
as recently as Friday.
Looters were also seen coming out of the Foreign Ministry
carrying office furniture, TV sets and air conditioners. Children
wheeled out office chairs and rolled them down the street.
Shots rang out at one point from inside the Foreign Ministry and
looters were seen rushing out and running for cover. They went back
in moments later.
U.S. forces did little but watch. Soldiers stood by at the
presidential compound as looters some 400 yards away hauled
bookshelves, computers and sofas from the Planning Ministry.
Bands of men removed wheels from damaged cars surrounding the
presidential compound even cars that were charred and overturned.
Others dragged cars away, or plundered them for parts.
Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad, Maher Abdallah, described
the situation as "tragic," and suggested it could have been
"They have ousted the regime and the authority, and in such an
urban area where there is no tribal authority or rule, chaos should
have been expected to break in such a way," Abdallah said.
U.S. officials insist the restoration of law and order will
become a higher priority.
The State Department said Friday it was sending 26 police and
judicial officers to Iraq, the first component of a team that will
eventually number about 1,200. The officers will be part of a group
led by Jay Garner, the retired general chosen by the Bush
administration to run the initial Iraqi civil administration under
|Residents of the Karbala
neighborhood of Baghdad catch a man suspected of looting at a
checkpoint they set up to intercept looters Friday April 11
2003 as widespread looting continues in the Iraqi capital. (AP
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