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US Army to Fight Crime Wave in Baghdad - 2003-05-14

The commander of U.S. armed forces in Iraq says he will double the number of military policemen in Baghdad to fight an ongoing crime wave.

General McKiernan says he is disturbed by the lack of security that grips the Iraqi capital more than a month after it fell to U.S. forces.

He says looting and other crimes are continuing, and he is even more worried about attacks by remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime.

"There are still regime elements out there that are actively and aggressively seeking to defeat, discredit or disrupt coalition operations," he said. "These groups continue to intimidate and terrorize their fellow citizens. They destroy infrastructure repairs made by the coalition and Iraqis working together. They are committed to a long fight and will complicate the work of the coalition."

The general says he is doubling the number of U.S. military policemen in the capital to 4,000. That compares with 20,000 policemen who worked in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein.

The city of five million residents has been plagued by a crime wave since the American military took control on April 9. Residents complain of looting, arson, carjackings and kidnappings, and many have demanded more aggressive American patrols.

U.S. military officials say about 200 looters have been detained in recent days, and they are being held at the Baghdad airport.

General McKiernan says he is also drafting a gun control policy for the entire country, but he says it would not be possible or practical to disarm all Iraqi civilians.