April 12 —
As looting spread Saturday to new areas of Baghdad, U.S.
officials said 1,200 police and judicial officers will go to Iraq to
help restore order. In western Iraq, U.S. forces stopped a busload
of men who had $650,000 in cash and a letter offering rewards for
killing American soldiers.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, at U.S. Central Command, said the 59
men, all of military age, were captured while heading toward Iraq's
border with Syria. He said he did not know the men's nationalities
nor who wrote the letter offering rewards.
American troops remained focused on erasing military threats
instead of curbing lawlessness. In Baghdad, Marines showed reporters
a cache of about 50 explosives-laden suicide bomb vests in an
elementary school less than 20 feet from the nearest home.
At a nearby junior high school, seven classrooms were filled with
hundreds of crates of grenade launchers, surface-to-air missiles and
ammunition. Residents said Iraqi soldiers and militiamen had
positioned weaponry throughout the neighborhood before U.S. forces
"We didn't imagine this much stuff here," said Lt. David Wright,
of Goldsboro, N.C. "Every 200 meters we find something."
Searching for weapons, and for holdout bands of pro-Saddam
fighters, has been the primary task of many of the American troops
in Baghdad. But U.S. officials, criticized for doing too little to
curtail the looting, say the restoration of law and order will
become a higher priority.
The State Department said it is 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
Much of the looting in Baghdad and other cities has targeted
government ministries and the homes of former regime leaders, but
looters also have ransacked embassies, stolen ambulances from
hospitals and robbed some private businesses.
Also looted was the Iraq National Museum, the country's flagship
archaeological museum, which featured priceless artifacts dating
back to 5,000 B.C. Reporters visiting it Saturday saw row after row
of empty glass cases, many of them smashed, and bits of broken
pottery and sculpture on the floors.
U.S. forces reopened two strategic bridges Saturday in the heart
of Baghdad giving looters easier access to territory that had
previously been spared. U.S. forces watched but did not intervene as
plunderers swarmed into several government buildings, including the
Planning Ministry, and emerged with bookshelves, sofas and
Aid organizations, as well as many Baghdad residents, have
pleaded with U.S. officials to crack down on the looting.
"The humanitarian situation is worsening as a consequence of
widespread lawlessness," said InterAction, a Washington-based
coalition of more than 160 U.S. aid groups. Iraq-based relief
workers with CARE reported that hospitals are "in absolutely dire
straits," with some looted and others closed to prevent looting.
Abbas Reta, 51, a Baghdad engineer with five children, was
distraught at the looting of schools and hospitals.
"If one of my family is injured where will I take them now? When
the schools reopen, my children will have no desks to sit on," he
said. "The Americans are responsible. One round from their guns and
all the looting would have stopped."
In another Baghdad neighborhood, residents complained that U.S.
soldiers thus far have not heeded requests to clear cluster bombs
dropped during the war. The residents said three people had been
killed and one injured trying to pick up the unexploded
Najah Jaffar, 51, described his attempt to get American help
removing the bombs.
"When I spoke to the soldier, he said, `It takes time.' I think
many people will be injured. Many bodies, many children will be
killed without reason," Jaffar said. "This is no peace."
Looting diminished Saturday in the northern city of Mosul, a day
after pro-Saddam defense forces dissolved and U.S. special forces
moved in. The special forces were joined Saturday by a
two-dozen-vehicle Army convoy that was greeted by thousands of
In Kirkuk, another northern city taken this week from Iraqi
regime forces, there were signs of cooperation Saturday among the
region's different ethnic groups. The Arab television network
Al-Jazeera reported an agreement to form a local administrative body
divided evenly among Arabs, Kurds and ethnic Turks.
Next, the U.S.-led coalition is expected to focus on Saddam's
hometown, Tikrit, where some Iraqi forces are believed to be
regrouping. However, the U.S. Central Command said many of the
troops there have fled in the face of heavy airstrikes, and the
remnants may not be able to muster an effective defense.
Tikrit, 90 miles northwest of Baghdad, has long been a power
center for Iraq's Sunni Muslim tribes, who may plan to resist as
long as possible out of fear of losing power to the Shiite Muslim
majority. Saddam drew many members of his inner circle from Tikrit,
and built several fortified palaces and military installations
Officials at the Pentagon have specific concerns about one aspect
of the widespread looting that vandalism of government offices could
destroy evidence about weapons of mass destruction.
Finding chemical and biological weapons manufactured by Saddam's
regime is a top priority for the U.S.-led forces. Troops are seeking
documents and Iraqi weapons experts in hopes of getting leads on
where banned materials might be.
"We have offered two things," said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald
H. Rumsfeld. "One is financial rewards. And we've also said that if
people have spotty backgrounds, assisting us might make their
In western Iraq, U.S. troops seized control of crossings on two
highways leading into Syria. There was tough resistance near Qaim,
on the Syrian border, raising speculation that the town might be
site for illegal weapons.
U.S. officials said Saturday that the first humanitarian flights
had arrived at Baghdad's international airport since it was taken by
American troops two C-130 transport planes with 24,000 pounds of
medical supplies from the Kuwaiti government for hospitals in
|A crowd, gathered under a giant
mural depicting Saddam Hussein, watch the British 1st
Battalion The Parachute Regiment search a military compound in
Ad Dayr north of Basra, Iraq, Saturday, April 12, 2003. (AP
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