U.S. Marines on Edge in Baghdad | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.04.2003
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U.S. Marines on Edge in Baghdad

Some residents grab for guns in order to stop rampant looting in Iraq's capital. U.S. soldiers continue to fight pockets of resistance in Baghdad as everyone asks: Where is Saddam?


The U.S. military is not a police force, say military officials.

Baghdad remained a dangerous no man's land as looters, some of them armed, claimed the streets while shop owners pleaded for help from passive U.S. marines.

"Is this your liberation?" one shopkeeper screamed at the crew of a U.S. tank, according to Reuters, as bands of young men looted his hardware store.

Tennis rackets, refigerators, office supplies, furniture, nothing was saved from the hands of Baghdad looters. There were reports of gunfire as local residents and business owners defended their wares, brandishing AK-47s.

Marines in the eastern part of the city set up a curfew from dusk until dawn on Friday, but officials said it wasn't the armed forces' job to police the capital.

"At no point do we see really becoming a police force," Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told a press conference. "We seek to create conditions of stability where people can walk the streets safely without looting, without violence, without exploding vehicles."

Marine officers in Baghdad underscored Brooks' message, saying there were still pockets of resistance in the Iraqi capital. "There's still people out there who want to kill us, so we can't let our guard down," one officer told Reuters.

But the situation is becoming more dire. Conditions at Baghdad hospitals became so severe that patients were advised to stay outside of the hospital rather than deal with the looters making off with supplies and other items. The Red Cross said Friday that the hospital system had all but collapsed as U.S. soldiers protected only a few hospitals.

Ein verwundeter irakischer Soldat wir in ein Bagdader Krankenhaus eingeliefert

A wounded Iraqi soldier is rushed through the emergency room at Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad.

"Our great worry is the situation of chaotic insecurity in Baghdad," said a Red Cross spokeswoman.

Behind some hospitals and along the road near the airport, some Iraqis donned face masks and began the difficult work of burying the dead in shallow graves.

Regime leaders nowhere to be found

The regime that prompted the attack on Iraq was nowhere to be found. Coalition forces have begun circulating "most wanted" fliers listing 50 people the U.S. military considered to have been leaders of the Iraqi regime.

The fate of Saddam Hussein and his sons remained unclarified Friday, with Israeli intelligence reporting that members of the regime have begun appearing in Syria. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has issued strong words of caution to the Syrian government, saying the United States would hold them responsible for any cooperation with the deposed Iraqi regime.

Also missing have been large caches of chemical and biological weapons, the weapons of mass destruction whose existence prompted the Bush administration to go to war in the first place. Soldiers have been finding gas masks and emergency kits at shelled-out palaces and bunkers but have so far uncovered very little evidence of chemical and biological weapons.

Mosul falls without much of a fight, Tikrit next?

With most of the country securely in coalition hands, U.S. forces focused on Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq Friday. The city, where military officials expect fierce resistance from remnants of Hussein's Republican Guard, has been bombed repeatedly by allied planes.

Iraq’s third-largest city, Mosul, fell to U.S. troops and their Kurdish allies on Friday, eliminating one of Hussein’s last major strongholds.

According to Western media reports, Iraqi forces retreated out of Mosul enabling Kurdish peshmerga fighters and U.S. special forces to take the city without a fight. The other large city in the north, the oil rich town of Kirkuk, fell on Thursday. Eyewitnesses said there was widespread looting in both Mosul and Kirkuk.

A U.S. Central Command spokesman in Qatar said the entire Iraqi 5th Army Corps had surrendered near Mosul. He said the coalition was deciding whether to take the soldiers as prisoners of war or simply let them put down their arms and return home.

U.S. forces were also able to secure Kirkuk’s strategically important oilfields, Reuters reported. Capable of pumping 900,000 barrels per day, the vast Kirkuk field had been producing 40 percent of Iraq's prewar exports.

At the same time, Kurdish commanders said they were preparing to withdraw from around Kirkuk to assuage Turkish concerns.

"They will go out of Kirkuk immediately when American forces replace them," said Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two leading Iraqi Kurdish parties.

Compiled by DW-WORLD staff with information from wire services.

Note: Information on troop movements, victims and damage estimates are based on information from parties involved in the war and cannot be independently verified.