04/11 - Some Iraqis try to stop Baghdad looters - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

04/11 - Some Iraqis try to stop Baghdad looters

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Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003 9:21 am | Updated: 1:28 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Taking the law into their own hands, Baghdad residents blockaded streets and beat up looters Friday as disorder spread in the Iraqi capital. The United States said the military does not intend to act as a police force.

Thousands of Iraqis - including entire families - plundered and burned government ministries and other symbols of Saddam Hussein's regime in a third straight day of lawlessness that began with the arrival of U.S. troops in Baghdad.

Four civilians were shot and killed by U.S. troops wary of suicide attacks at Baghdad checkpoints, and a 5-year-old girl was wounded.

The Ministries of Education and Industry, both in the heart of Baghdad, were looted and set on fire, sending dark smoke over the city. The Foreign and Information Ministries and the Baath Party headquarters were sacked along with the city's engineering and nursing colleges.

The Trade and Planning Ministries also were smoldering, along with one of the main markets in the city center. At the German Embassy, three men stood on the roof, unscrewing a large satellite dish.

In Baghdad's Karadah neighborhood, residents fought back: They armed themselves with Kalashnikov rifles, set up roadblocks and checked passing cars for stolen goods. Any plunder was confiscated, and people in the cars were taken out and beaten and tossed in an alley.

In Saddam City, a Baghdad slum dominated by Shiite Muslims and named after the Sunni Muslim leader they despised, mosque minarets blared appeals for people to stop looting and destroying their city. Some heeded the clerics' calls and brought stolen goods to mosques for safekeeping.

Residents of some neighborhoods erected street barricades of tiles, huge rocks and sandbags to keep looters out.

With many Baghdad residents demanding U.S. troops restore order, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Central Command spokesman, said that the military is helping to rebuild the civil administration but expects the Iraqis themselves to assume responsibility for law and order.

"At no time do we really see becoming a police force," Brooks said.

He suggested the lawlessness will ease with the rebuilding of the civil authority.

"We have to be patient over that," Brooks said. "We are not exercising the same kind of grip over the population that the regime did. That's by design."

U.S. commander Gen. Tommy Franks issued new rules of behavior Friday for American forces in Baghdad now that the Iraqi capital is under U.S. control.

Under the rules, troops are forbidden to use deadly force to prevent looting. They should allow government workers to go to their jobs. Hospitals, businesses and mosques should remain open. Schools should reopen and record attendance.

Meanwhile, scattered bursts of machine-gun fine could be heard around the city in a reminder that the fighting is not yet over. U.S. troops worked to hold key intersections against Iraqi holdouts and manned checkpoints, on high alert against suicide attacks.

"I feel like I'm in Beirut, Lebanon, waiting for the suicide bombers," said Army Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp. "We know they're holed up on the other side of the river and scattered around the city."

On Friday, a car carrying an Iraqi family drove through a checkpoint in Baghdad without stopping, and Marines opened fire. Three adults were killed, and a 5-year-old girl was wounded.

On Thursday night, a vehicle containing explosives was driven to a checkpoint near the Saddam City section of Baghdad and detonated, Brooks said. Four Marines and one medical corpsman were wounded, he said, without providing details.

A short time later, a man started walking toward U.S. soldiers stationed at an intersection near the government's tourism department. The soldiers, on edge against the possibility of a suicide attack, fired four warning shots, but the man kept coming. They opened fire. When they found his body in the morning, he was unarmed.

In the Al-Mansour district in western Baghdad, pro-Saddam bands of Arab volunteers manned sandbagged positions, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles. Residents said they were mostly Syrians.

Children as young as 10 and entire families - mother, father and the kids - took part in the looting, carrying away everything from tables, chairs and light fixtures to water coolers, air conditioners and refrigerators.

"Tell the Americans to stop the killing and the looting. We can't live like this much longer, with Muslims looting other Muslims," said 41-year-old Jabryah Aziz. "I need to feel safe so I can go and collect my food ration."

Officers with the 7th Marine Regiment said they received orders Thursday night to try to stop looting. The regiment planned to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew Friday in the area it patrols in eastern Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Michael Belcher, a battalion commander, said his priorities were first to protect key structures, such as the power system, and second to safeguard humanitarian sites like hospitals and aid distribution centers. Commercial buildings are last, he said.

"If I see them tearing down electrical infrastructure in some of these facilities, I'll step in to stop it," Belcher said. "What we found so far is that if you confront the looters, they'll put it down and go away."

Taleb Abdel-Razaq, who works in a coffee shop, stood in central Baghdad and watched looters coming out of government departments and stores with their plunder

"I cannot believe it," he said. "Are these really Iraqis? What happened to their honor and their patriotism? This is our country. How could they do this? If they have to loot, fine. But why should they torch everywhere they go?"

Meanwhile, a company from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division stumbled on a personal weapons cache belonging to Saddam's son Odai in a Baath Party enclave in an otherwise empty house. There were hundreds of Beretta 9mm pistol boxes - the pistols had been looted - and dozens of gold- and silver-plated military weapons, apparently presented as gifts to Odai.

At the Al-Rashid Hotel, a portrait of former President Bush that had put installed on the floor by Saddam's regime as a gesture of disrespect was destroyed Friday. The picture had been put there so that people entering the hotel walked all over Bush's image.

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