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US to send special units to maintain order in Baghdad

US military said it had set up a civil- military operations centre and was sending special units to police Baghdad.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2003 03:13 IST

Kurdish fighters and US forces swept into Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, after Saddam Hussein’s loyalists abandoned one of the last strongholds of his dying regime. The advance prompted looting and celebrations in the streets.

Baghdad continued its descent into near complete anarchy. Under increasing international pressure to restore order, the US military said it had set up a civil- military operations centre and was sending special units to police Baghdad. British troops in Basra took sterner measures, shooting five looters.

At Mosul, the Iraqi Army’s entire 5th Corps formally surrendered to US troops.

Forces of the toppled dictator holding northern cities other than his hometown of Tikrit appeared to have dissolved into streams of unarmed, bootless ex-soldiers trekking home.

Thousands of them, mainly Shias, were seen walking the 155 miles south from Kirkuk to Baghdad. Questioned, many said their documents had been confiscated by their officers to try and prevent them from deserting. They had handed their weapons to the Kurds.

The US told Turkey that US troops had replaced Kurdish fighters in the city of Kirkuk, which was captured on Friday. Ankara is apprehensive Kurdish control of key northern cities would provide a fillip to its own Kurdish insurgency.

People in Mosul plundered the central bank, grabbing wads of money and throwing bills in the air. Mosul University’s library, with its rare manuscripts, was sacked despite appeals blared from mosques asking people to stop destroying their city, Al Jazeera reported. Kurdish fighters fired in the air to force looters to leave. One local man said, “This is barbaric. This is not Saddam’s money. This is the people’s money.”

Thousands of Iraqis, sometimes entire families, took to Baghdad’s streets for a third day of looting. Engineering and medical colleges seemed the focus of pillaging Friday. Iraqi neighbourhoods began forming local watch groups to maintain law and order.

“Is this your liberation?” screamed an Iraqi shopkeeper at US Marines who watched passively as looters broke into his small hardware shop.

A US staff sergeant, Benjamin Phinney, said his focus was on fighting, not policing. His roadblock in Baghdad had been attacked by five car bombs in the past three days. He pointed to charred wrecks nearby. “See these cars here, they were all car bombs.”

A key source of resistance remained hundreds of mainly Syrian volunteers in parts of northern Baghdad.

ASSAULT DECK

Coalition troops given decks of playing cards with pictures of Saddam’s key men. Purpose: To ‘ease identification’ for ‘killing, pursuing or capturing’.

LAB TEST

Reported tests on a suspected mobile bio-weapons lab in a truck. Vials and bottles found.

REPRISAL

In Basra, Shia civilians hunted down Baathists. ‘You don’t know what they did to us,’ a Shia man was reported saying.

First Published: Apr 12, 2003 03:13 IST