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April 12, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Key Bridges Are Reopened in Baghdad
Looters Surge Across Reopened Bridges in Baghdad; Iraqis Disappointed With U.S. Response

The Associated Press


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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 government buildings.

"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 prevented.

"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 American occupation.


photo credit and caption:
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 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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