Hussein half-brother captured

Special Forces pick up former spy chief on U.S. most-wanted list

Mass graves of Iraqi troops found

Politicians begin to jockey for position in new Iraq amid signs of normality

War In Iraq

April 18, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - With still no sign of President Saddam Hussein, American Special Forces captured one of his half-brothers, a former intelligence chief who is the third on a list of 55 Iraqis wanted by U.S. authorities to be captured so far.

Other ghosts of the old regime are emerging: Relatives of about 700 Iraqi soldiers killed in the war picked through shallow graves yesterday at a military hospital in southern Baghdad, as another mass grave of 1,600 dead was discovered north in Kirkuk. The British military also reported finding a mass grave near the southern city of Basra.

But a nascent, if unelected, Iraqi leadership began jockeying for position under the eye of the real power here, the American military, in this city that has now quieted, though unrest has not been completely quelled, after a week of looting, burning and gun battles.

The most prominent new politician, Ahmad Chalabi, an Iraqi exile who heads the Iraqi National Congress and who is favored by some in the United States for a leadership position, has made no public appearances since returning to Baghdad, for the first time since 1958, on Wednesday night.

But his top representative here, Mohammad Zubeidi, 51, who has proclaimed himself the governor of Baghdad, held a news conference at the Palestine Hotel, the center for foreign journalists, then went off on a tour to introduce himself to people in a devastated city who hardly know him.

"We have to prove to the world, and to the Americans, that we are able to run our country," he said at a stop at a gasoline distribution company.

In the northern city of Mosul, 230 of Chalabi's Iraqi Freedom Fighters are undergoing training by U.S. Special Forces. Two weeks ago, about 600 of his fighters were flown to Nasiriyah from northern Iraq in U.S. military planes.

The arrest of one of Hussein's half-brothers, Barzan al-Tikriti, was carried out in great secrecy, with the U.S. military saying only that he had been picked up in Baghdad by Special Operations forces.

Tikriti, a central member of the tight ruling clan around Hussein from his ancestral home of Tikrit north of Baghdad, was considered a loyal aide yet one who still had several fallings out with Hussein over three decades in power. His relations with Hussein's eldest son, Odai, 39, were strained, and he reportedly had expressed more recent reservations about Hussein's plans for his son Qusai, 37, to succeed him.

Aside from his job as chief of intelligence, Tikriti served as Iraq's representative to the United Nations in Geneva for a decade, ending in 1998. Two other members on America's most-wanted list have also been apprehended or surrendered in the past week: another of Hussein's half-brothers, Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, and Hussein's top scientific adviser, Amer al-Saadi, who was more recently Iraq's representative to the U.N. inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction.

In Baghdad, there were more and more scenes of life returning to normal, even among the still-burning buildings, the continued lack of electricity and a general unease about what comes next.

More people and commerce were visible on the streets; one cafe owner attracted a crowd by rigging up a satellite television dish, while vendors sold blocks of ice and stolen bottles of Scotch alongside meat and vegetables.

At a busy intersection under Saddam Highway, two scruffy men - one in what looked like a looted police hat - directed traffic. The dozen or so firefighters in the Sheik Omar quarter returned to their firehouse two days after U.S. troops took over the capital and, working without pay, have been steadily putting out fires in government buildings.

"Thanks to God, we came back to work again," said Wisam Hassan, 49, chief of the day shift, as his crew rested by their red pumper. "We are very happy."

In many city neighborhoods, local patrols - often well-armed - have been formed to keep out looters, and streets have been blocked off with tree trunks, concrete blocks and piles of readily available rubble.

In the working-class Karrada District, a building that only a week ago housed a section of the Iraqi intelligence organization - the feared Mukhabarat - had been turned into a center where repentant looters could return stolen goods. A number of such centers, mostly in mosques or religious centers, are operating in some neighborhoods.

Ali Fadhil, a local official in charge, stood under a hand-lettered sign with an Islamic crescent moon symbol and the title, "Society for the Protection of Muslim Property." He said the center had been opened in accordance with a directive from Shiite Muslim scholars in the holy city of Najaf.

On the sidewalk, volunteers were unloading sacks of Vietnamese rice and yellow plastic jugs of cooking oil from a big truck. Inside the building, rooms were piled with looted goods, ranging from battered shelves, mirrors, table lamps, computers, a manual typewriter and rugs to a motorcycle, a pickup truck and three cars.

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