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Baghdad hit by widespread looting

Widespread looting broke out in several parts of Baghdad as vestiges of government authority appeared to have collapsed.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2003 15:13 IST

Widespread looting broke out in several parts of Baghdad on Wednesday as vestiges of government authority appeared to have collapsed.

Crowds of Iraqis made off with items ranging from jeeps to computers and furniture from military installations, government buildings and research institutions.

Gangs of youths roamed the streets and there was little sign of the army, police, the ruling Baath party or militiamen. On Palestine street, where the Baath party as recently as a few weeks ago held rallies and shows of force, gangs of youths and even middle-aged men looted the warehouses of the Trade Ministry, removing anything from air conditioners to ceiling fans, refrigerators and television sets.

On one Baghdad street, a white-haired middle aged man used his shoe to beat a canvas depicting a smiling Saddam Hussein. A younger man spat on the portrait, and several others launched kicks at the face of the Iraqi president.

"Come see, this is freedom ... this is the criminal, this is the infidel," he said. "This is the destiny of every traitor ... he killed millions of us. Oh people this is freedom." Another man walked out of a nearby compound holding a black and gold vase almost the same size as himself, and loaded it into a car. Other pictures showed people coming out of various buildings with electronic equipment and tables.

Looters ran with flowers, boxes and clocks from what appeared to be a government office. One person walked away with a PC screen. Arab language broadcasters showed Iraqis welcoming the US forces.

"We are with the US," said one man who was carrying a rifle with one hand.

Youths of about 15 or 16 walked menacingly clutching Kalashnikovs. Gunshots sent motorists and pedestrians rushing in all directions.

Long lines snaked from gasoline stations and outside bakeries as people tried to stock up with food and fuel.

Meanwhile, about two dozen Arab volunteers who came to Baghdad to defend Saddam's regime gathered outside the Palestine Hotel, trying desperately to negotiate with taxi drivers to take them back to Syria.

Members of the US Army's V Corps were isolating Baghdad west of the Tigris and were conducting armoured raids into the city, while the "significant-sized force" in the city itself was being re-supplied, said Capt. Frank Thorp, a Central Command spokesman in Qatar.

He refused to say how large the US force was in the capital, saying only that it was large enough to be positioned to prevent Iraqi forces from coming into and out of the city. "Overnight and this morning, as regime forces are located they are being attacked and defeated," he said.

First Published: Apr 09, 2003 15:05 IST