Accessibility links

Breaking News

Looting, Lawlessness a Growing Concern 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," he said. "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," said General Franks. "So that is the case with the leadership of the regime inside Iraq."

In order to help coalition troops either capture or kill key members of the regime, soldiers have been given decks of 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," he said. "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 to hospitals. Nada Doumani is a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. "It is a very volatile, very dangerous situation," she said. "Our big concern is that people who need medical care cannot get it anymore."

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. "We have to be patient about that." he said. "We are not exercising the same kind of grip on the population that the regime did. That is by design. We are doing this in conjunction with the population, and I think that our work will be deliberate as we get that done and we will be very cooperative with the Iraqi population."

On the diplomatic front, the leaders of France, Germany and Russia are holding two days of talks in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg to discuss their desire for a larger United Nations role in rebuilding Iraq. The Bush administration has said the United Nations will play a role in the aftermath of the war, but that the coalition countries that supported military action will have the lead role.