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Battlefield Successes Dimmed by Lawlessness in Iraq - 2003-04-11

Iraqi soldiers in the northern city of Mosul surrendered en masse Friday, leaving Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit as the last major holdout of his regime. But even as coalition forces continue to have success on the battlefield, there are growing concerns about looting and lawlessness in Baghdad and elsewhere.

Saddam loyalists continue to collapse. U.S. military officials say an entire Iraqi army corps surrendered to U.S. troops and Kurdish fighters in Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, and began walking home without their weapons.

U.S. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks spoke to reporters at Central Command headquarters in Qatar. "Many Iraqi forces literally removed their uniforms and left the battlefield to walk home, without their equipment," said General Brooks. "And this is just as the coalition requested."

U.S. officials say they have indications that some senior officials from the Saddam regime are trying to leave Iraq. The commander of coalition forces, U.S. General Tommy Franks, spoke to reporters while visiting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. "They are either dead, or they are running like hell," he said. "So, that is the case with the leadership of the regime inside Iraq."

Both General Franks and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday that the Saddam Hussein regime is now "gone."

In order to help coalition troops either capture or kill key members of the regime, soldiers have been given decks of playing cards that include the names and faces of 55 key Saddam loyalists. U.S. General Vincent Brooks held up a deck of cards before reporters in Qatar. "And this deck of cards is one example of what we provide to soldiers and Marines out in the field, with the faces of the individuals and what their role is," he said. "In this case, there are 55 cards in the deck."

But even as the coalition continues to encounter success on the battlefield, there is growing concern that U.S. and British forces need to do more to stem the tide of lawlessness and looting in Baghdad and elsewhere.

This man is complaining about the situation in the liberated northern city of Kirkuk. "Our problem is the robberies," said the man. "They do robberies everywhere in Kirkuk. We need security. We need security in Kurkuk with the United Kingdom and the American government. Security!"

British foreign aid secretary Clare Short spoke to the issue on British radio. "The occupying powers, which is the U.S., UK [United Kingdom] and Australia, have a duty across the country to keep order, to keep basic humanitarian services in place for civilians and to keep civil administration running," said Secretary Short. "And there must be a much bigger effort to stop all this looting and violence."

The International Red Cross says the looting and unrest in Baghdad is making it difficult for Iraqi civilians to get medical care. Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger spoke at a news conference in Geneva. "It is, in our opinion, a priority to secure the environment of hospitals and, in particular, to protect the hospitals from looting," he said.

In Washington, U.S. officials said the looting was "regrettable," but somewhat understandable, given the lifting of an oppressive regime.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke at the Pentagon. "And while no one condones looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression, and people who have had their families killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime," said Donald Rumsfeld.

U.S. General Vincent Brooks says the military is helping rebuild Iraq's civil administration. But he also says the coalition still expects the Iraqis themselves to assume responsibility for establishing law and order.

Finally, President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush spent time Friday visiting with U.S. war wounded from Iraq at two Washington area hospitals.