Baghdad residents make efforts to quell looting

  • Associated Press, PTI, Baghdad
  • |
  • Updated: Apr 12, 2003 10:04 IST

Baghdad residents armed with rifles beat up looters and blockaded streets to try to quell the looting and lawlessness running rampant in the Iraqi capital. American leaders walked a fine line between alienating Iraqis with an iron fist and doing too little to stop the chaos.

As thousands of Iraqis - including some entire families with young children - raided government buildings and hauled away everything from cars to refrigerators, some residents in the Karadah neighbourhood set up roadblocks and checked vehicles for stolen goods.

Suspected thieves were pulled out, beaten and thrown into an alley in the neighbourhood Southeast of the city centre. Some pleaded with US troops to help stop the looting.

Elsewhere, US forces ransacked Iraq's military intelligence headquarters and other sites across Baghdad for what Iraqis told them were hundreds of political prisoners trapped in underground cells.
When the soldiers' search of the abandoned military complex yielded nothing,  desperate relatives took up the hunt, shouting, tearing at the earth with their fingers, clawing at concrete drain covers with crowbars.

Fighting had dwindled to occasional bursts of machine-gun fire but American troops were still on high alert for ambushes and suicide attacks by fighters loyal to President Saddam Hussein.

"There's still plenty of fighting to be done," US Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, the Army's V corps commander,  said.

Fears of suicide attacks were evident and several people were killed in a series of shootings at US military checkpoints when vehicles refused to stop. Two children died in Nasiriyah and three adults were killed in a separate incident in Baghdad.

In another incident in Baghdad, a tank crew opened fire on a bus that failed to heed warning shots. The driver was killed, and the crew said it found Iraqi military uniforms inside the vehicle.

A number of government ministries-- trade,  education,  industry and planning-- were looted and set on fire. One of the city's main markets smouldered. People raided the nursing college at Baghdad University as well as the engineering college. Looters left with light fixtures,  desks, water coolers and air conditioners.

Three men stood on the roof of the German embassy unscrewing a large satellite dish. Sofas, tables, chairs, electronic equipment and a refrigerator were taken from the information ministry.

Abu Dhabi television showed footage that it said was information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf's trashed office at the ministry and his Mercedes limousine stripped of its lights.
Cars were stolen off the streets. If the thieves could not start the engines,  they towed the cars away.


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