Soldiers step up policing in Baghdad
US troops have increased their patrols and raids in an attempt to restore order to the Iraqi capital
BAGHDAD - The US military has begun a high-profile campaign to battle lawlessness on the streets of Baghdad.
|Fighting crime on the streets of Baghdad, US soldiers escort a gang of Iraqi teenagers arrested for shooting at rivals. Looting and other crimes have continued despite US presence and the return of Iraqi police. -- REUTERS|
An expanded cadre of American troops acting as police made 400 patrols and raided six sites on Saturday.
They arrested 129 people, including crime bosses who dealt in stolen cars and drugs, according to Army officials.
Trucks ferrying well-armed US soldiers through the city have become increasingly visible in a capital where gunshots are heard day and night and the streets are filled with men because women feel unsafe.
Safety problems have also delayed the exodus of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which has been in the region since September.
An advance group of soldiers from the 1st Armoured division are being trained to take over the 3rd Infantry's peacekeeping duties.
Held: Saddam's cousin
BAGHDAD - The No. 10 most-wanted Iraqi official surrendered on Saturday. General Kamal
Mustafa Abdallah Sultan Al-Tikriti, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, surrendered to US forces in
Baghdad, defence officials said.
He was a senior leader and secretary-general of Saddam's elite Republican Guard military units
and dubbed the 'Queen of Spades' in the original list of 55 most-wanted leaders of the regime
published by the US military last month. -- Los Angeles Times
Crime and chaos in the capital have threatened to undermine support for the toppling of Saddam Hussein but US Major-General William Webster told reporters his troops were doubling night patrols and making substantial progress in restoring order.
Soldiers were grappling with issues never anticipated in the Pentagon's reconstruction plan for Iraq.
'We did not expect the entire armed forces of Iraq to leave all of their equipment... and put on civilian clothes when we conducted our initial planning,' he said.
'We did not expect all of the police forces to go home and stay home.'
About 7,000 Iraqi police officers, a fraction of the Baghdad force, have reported back to work.
Few have the weapons, uniforms and cars they need to do their jobs and some of those who do are busy recovering stolen police vehicles.
Yet the general said the army expects to see the number of working police stations in the city increase from two to 32 within the next month.
Until then, securing the capital is very much in the hands of US soldiers, who confiscate as many as 200 weapons a day at roadblocks.
Among those being arrested are criminals released along with political prisoners in the waning days of Saddam's regime, he said.
Meanwhile, the US administrator for Iraq, Mr Paul Bremer, has said Washington has no plans to suspend the transition to an Iraqi interim authority planned for the next few weeks.
'I've read a report in the American press about a delay (in the transitional government). I don't know where these stories are coming from because we haven't delayed anything,' Mr Bremer told reporters yesterday during a visit to the northern city of Mosul.
The New York Times reported on Friday that Mr Bremer and British officials had told Iraqi leaders on Friday they had delayed indefinitely a plan to allow Iraqis to form a national assembly and interim government.
Iraqi politicians, mainly from the former exiled opposition, plan to hold a conference to form an interim authority to run the country by the end of this month.
Mr Bremer said he had a 'productive meeting' with Iraqi leaders on Friday. -- Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AFP