Civil disorder rages on in Iraq

Lawlessness and looting amid scattered battles

`Much work to be done still'

Captured Hussein adviser denies weapons cache

War In Iraq

April 13, 2003|By Paul West | Paul West,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Fresh outbreaks of looting and civil unrest swept across Iraq yesterday, even as the threat appeared to be fading that remnants of Saddam Hussein's army would mount one last stand against U.S. forces on the battlefield north of Baghdad.

Scattered fighting continued in the Iraqi capital and many other parts of the country as pockets of regime loyalists battled U.S.-led troops.

"There is much work to be done still in military operations," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar.

But in another indication that the war was winding down, the Navy's top commander said two or three of the five American carrier groups in the region, used to launch air strikes against targets in Iraq, would be leaving soon.

One of the senior members of Hussein's government, a science adviser with knowledge of Iraq's weapons program, surrendered to American forces in Baghdad yesterday. Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi ranks 55th on the list of 55 most-wanted leaders whose faces appear in the decks of playing cards distributed to U.S. troops. He was the seven of diamonds.

In an interview with a German television network, which helped arrange his surrender, al-Saadi insisted that he had told the truth when he repeatedly said before the war that Iraq no longer possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Nothing else will come out after the end of the war," he said.

There was still no sign of Hussein, his sons and other senior government officials. U.S. officials confirmed that bounties have been placed on their heads but declined to say how much.

"The price tags vary," said Brooks.

He said that while U.S. intelligence does not know for certain where Iraq's leaders have gone, they are thought to be in Iraq, and "we know they're on the run."

Note of caution

President Bush, in his weekly radio message, recorded Friday, said the United States "may still face hard fighting" in Iraq.

"Yet the statues of the dictator and all the works of his terror regime are falling away," said Bush, who is spending the weekend at Camp David.

More U.S. soldiers were being sent into Baghdad, to help calm the turmoil in the streets and provide additional security for the city's 5 million residents, as well as to replace units that are starting to move north out of the city.

A large combat contingent of U.S. Marines was headed for Tikrit, the ancestral home of Hussein's clan, where weeks of heavy air strikes might have severely weakened forces loyal to the Iraqi president.

There were reports that U.S. intelligence had picked up evidence of looting in the streets of the town, similar to the scenes of anarchy elsewhere across the country.

When U.S. forces get to Tikrit, about 100 miles from Baghdad, "we may find that there's not much fight left" in the town's defenders, said Brooks. But "if Tikrit falls," he added, "that's just one more city." There is more fighting ahead in the area around Hussein's home base and elsewhere, he indicated.

Less than four weeks into the war, the U.S.-led ground force is rapidly being transformed from an invasion army into a security force. Marine commanders said they would begin joint patrols in Baghdad with Iraqi police in the next few days. "It's going to happen sooner rather than later," said Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Stafford.

One Marine was killed yesterday when two gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint near a medical facility, Central Command said.

Marines returned fire, killing one attacker, but the other escaped, Marine sources said.

The slain attacker had a Syrian identification card, Central Command said. The Marine's name was withheld pending notification of relatives.

British soldiers in Basra, the second-largest Iraqi city, are setting up similar patrols, in which armed British troops will work side-by-side with unarmed Iraqi policemen.

American officials said they believed that civil unrest had begun to taper off. But the decision to begin putting Iraqi police, at least lower-level patrolmen, back on the streets reflected the urgency of better controlling the situation.

The United States and Britain have been under intense pressure, from angry Iraqi civilians and from critics around the world, to move more aggressively to stem the chaos that has swept Iraq after the collapse of Hussein's government last week.

On Friday, officials at U.S. Central Command in Qatar had said it would be unacceptable to put Iraqi policemen back on the streets, because many of them had been used by Hussein's government over the years to repress Iraqi citizens.

There had also been reports that Iraqi police had used their radios to call in artillery strikes against U.S.-led troops.

American commanders, eager to be seen as liberators rather than conquerors, have sought to avoid using force against Iraqi civilians. But it is by no means clear that the mere presence of U.S. military units will be enough to stop the lawlessness.

U.S. soldiers have often stood by as thieves ransacked government buildings, stores and private homes.

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