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[casi] News, 23-30/4/03 (2)

News, 23-30/4/03 (2)


*  Anti-U.S. Protests After Iraqi Arms Dump Carnage
*  Fears capital on verge of cholera epidemic
*  Media, Troops Investigated in Iraq Theft
*  UK soldiers to be tested for toxic exposure
*  Terrorist group claims it carried out attacks in Iraq
*  Arms Dump Blast Fuels Fury
*  Baghdad 'Council head' gives interview, admits no relationship with U.S.
*  Baghdad's Self-Appointed 'Mayor' Arrested
*  13 killed in fight between U.S. troops, protesters
*  Fallujah - A Shooting Too Far?
*  Iraq's cancer children overlooked in war
*  Groups Grab Power in Key City, Factions Fight


*  White House warns Iran on Iraq
*  Iraqi Shi'ites show strength
*  Kubaisi's Return Raises Questions
*  Al-Sadr supporters offer leadership to cleric
*  Coalition forces reportedly detain Shi'a clerics in Iraq


by Nadim Ladki
Reuters, 26th April

BAGHDAD: Many Iraqi civilians were feared killed on Saturday when an arms
dump exploded on the edge of Baghdad, sending rockets scything into nearby
housing. Residents blamed U.S. troops for the tragedy.

The American military said unidentified attackers had fired an incendiary
device into the munitions store, at Zaafaraniya on the capital's southern
outskirts, setting off a string of explosions.

But local people turned their anger on the Americans, shooting at soldiers
who tried to join relief efforts. They said the U.S. army should not have
collected confiscated Iraqi weapons in a residential area.

Some soldiers were wounded, an army sergeant-major told Reuters.
Anti-American protests broke out later in the capital.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left for the Gulf on Saturday to thank
regional leaders for support in the war that toppled Iraqi President Saddam
Hussein and to discuss future U.S. military deployment in the oil-rich area.

U.S. officials did not say whether he would visit Iraq.

It was unclear how many people were killed in the blasts in Zaafaraniya, a
mixed residential-industrial suburb.

An Iraqi medic traveling in a civilian ambulance ferrying casualties to
hospital said the explosions had killed many people. Asked how many, he
replied: "Forty."

One distraught man, Tamir Kalaal, said his wife, father, brother and 11
other relatives had been killed when a rocket shot out of the arms dump and
destroyed their home.

A statement by U.S. Central Command in Qatar said at least six people had
been killed.

"Ten civilian casualties from this incident have been found. Six of them are
dead, while four are wounded," it said.

About 500 men, chanting anti-American, pro-Islamic slogans, drove out of
Zaafaraniya in a convoy of trucks, buses and cars. One truck carried six
coffins. Two banners in English read: "Stop Explosions Near Civilians" and
"The Terror After War."

Later, scores of men gathered in a central Baghdad square to protest at the
U.S. military presence in Iraq, waving their fists and chanting: "Yes, yes
to Islam! Yes, yes to Iraq!"

A Muslim cleric with a megaphone egged on the crowd. One green banner read:
"U.S. forces kill innocent with Saddam's weapons in Zaafaraniya."

The incident underlined how far Baghdad is from being pacified 17 days after
U.S. troops took the city.

It came just hours after aides said President Bush would declare an end to
hostilities next week and hail the success of U.S.-led combat operations.


In Zaafaraniya, where residents spoke of rockets from the dump raining down
on their homes, a group of women in black shawls stood amidst the rubble
weeping uncontrollably.

Hussein Hafez, a 57-year-old neighbor said: "Saddam was a butcher, and now
this. This is a residential area. Why are the Americans blowing up weapons
near us?"

The explosions at Zaafaraniya, which began just after 8 a.m. (0400 GMT),
were so loud they could be heard in central Baghdad.

U.S. troops in the city center told reporters initially they were controlled
detonations, but later the American military said they were the result of an

"An unknown number of individuals attacked," the Central Command statement

"One soldier was wounded in the attack," it went on. "During the attack, the
assailant fired an unknown incendiary device into the cache, causing it to
catch fire and explode. The explosion caused the destruction of the cache as
well as a nearby building."

Zaafaraniya residents said U.S. forces had been packing cars with Iraqi
weapons over the last three days and detonating them.

Kalaal, the man who lost 14 relatives when his house was destroyed, had no
doubt who was to blame for the tragedy. "Those Americans did this," he said,
shaking his finger in rage.


Sydney Morning Herald, from AP, 24th April

While the Iraqi capital comes to terms with the end of war more than 80 per
cent of the city remains in darkness after three weeks without power and
running water. Doctors have now reported the first suspected cases of
cholera and typhoid.

Between 50 and 60 per cent of the children brought into the Al-Iskan
children's hospital in Baghdad were suffering from dehydration and diarrhoea
caused by bad sanitation and water, Ahmed Abdul Fattah, the hospital's
assistant director said.

Doctors suspected hundreds of the children had cholera and typhoid, but with
no labs fully working, and most United Nations health workers having fled,
hard-pressed physicians said they could only treat the cases, not confirm

Coalition damage and confusion largely caused the power crisis, workers said
- fighting snapped a fuel line to the key plant, and destroyed the central
office that co-ordinates the grid.

At the children's hospital, doctors were praying for their overworked
cluster of generators to hold on. "Without them, these babies - 100 per
cent, would face death," Dr Fattah said of premature infants in incubators.

Other wards held dozens of listless children, many suffering from stomach
infections caused by unclean water, draining fluids from their bodies. "An
epidemic," Dr Fattah said.

With clinics citywide depleted by looting, volunteers at Sunni and Shiite
mosques were also treating typhoid and cholera cases out of clinics set up
in mosque offices.

The lights went off in Baghdad in the first week of April as bombs fell and
frightened workers abandoned their posts, often staying at home to guard
them against robbers.

City residents had left their light switches turned on waiting for
electricity to return.

And for some parts of west Baghdad it happened late on Tuesday and
yesterday, sending men into the street to fire AK-47s in relief.

by Curt Anderson
Yahoo, 24th April

WASHINGTON (AP): Members of the news media and U.S. soldiers are being
investigated for taking art, artifacts, weapons and cash from Iraq, with
criminal charges already brought in one case, federal officials said

At least 15 paintings, gold-plated firearms, ornamental knives, Iraqi
government bonds and other items have been seized at airports in Washington,
Boston and London in the last week, according to the bureaus of Customs and
Border Protection and of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

None of the items displayed at a news conference were priceless antiquities
looted from Iraqi museums. Still, Customs and military officials stressed
there will be no tolerance for American service personnel or civilians
bringing Iraqi souvenirs or war trophies back to the United States.

"This is theft," said Jayson Ahern, a senior field operations official at
the Customs and Border Protection bureau. "We are there to liberate. This
must cease."

So far, only Benjamin James Johnson, who worked as an engineer for Fox News
Channel, has been charged. But officials said more charges could be brought
and more seizures of stolen items are expected in what is being dubbed
"Operation Iraqi Heritage."

"This activity is clearly illegal," said Michael T. Dougherty, operations
director at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.

Museums, businesses, government offices and homes were looted in Baghdad and
other cities after the fall of President Saddam Hussein's regime. Among the
items stolen were thousands of artworks and other antiquities, some
thousands of years old, from Iraq's vast collections of items from Assyrian,
Mesopotamian, Sumerian and other cultures.

Customs agents are in Baghdad working with the museums to inventory what was
stolen. The FBI and the Interpol law enforcement network also are helping
investigate and recover lost items.

U.S. military officials also say that about $900,000 was taken by American
soldiers from a cache of about $600 million in U.S. currency found in
Baghdad palace complexes. Officials say most of the money has been
recovered. Five soldiers are under investigation.

Johnson, 27, is charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court
in Alexandria, Va., with attempting to smuggle 12 paintings taken from a
palace in Baghdad through Dulles International Airport outside Washington in
a large cardboard box.

After initially telling inspectors the paintings were given to him by Iraqi
citizens, Johnson admitted that he took them from a palace that belonged to
Uday Hussein, one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's sons, while traveling
with the U.S. military.

The paintings, depicting Saddam, Uday and Arab historical scenes, have
little historical value but could bring sizable prices because of their
links to the deposed regime, officials said. Johnson told inspectors he
wanted them mainly for decoration.

An examination of Johnson's luggage also turned up 40 Iraqi Monetary Bonds
and a visitor's badge from the U.S. embassy in Kuwait. Johnson, of
Alexandria, Va., faces up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in
fines on both smuggling and false statements counts.

Attempts to reach Johnson by telephone Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Johnson worked for six years as a satellite truck engineer for Fox, which
fired him after learning he had acknowledged taking the paintings, a network
statement said.

Customs officials said unidentified U.S. service personnel attempted to ship
a rifle, pistol, and AK-47 assault rifle 'all gold-plated' as well as swords
and knives taken from an Iraqi government facility to a military base in the
United States. The items were intercepted last Friday at London's Heathrow
Airport, then shipped to Fort Stewart, Ga.

U.S. soldiers have been warned repeatedly not to bring home war trophies and
will be searched by military police and Customs inspectors as they return
from Iraq, said Mark Raimondi, spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigative

Customs officials in Boston said they confiscated several souvenirs,
including a painting, from Boston Herald reporter Jules Crittenden when he
returned Saturday from Kuwait. The U.S. attorney's office in Boston decided
not to charge Crittenden with a crime, a spokeswoman said.

The Herald said Crittenden declared the items and cooperated with Customs.

Additional Iraqi items, including a painting, gold-plated emblem, gun
holster and knife, that were being shipped by several other unidentified
members of the media, were seized at Dulles on Monday. Those cases are still
being investigated.

Sydney Morning Herald, from The Guardian, 26th April

Soldiers returning to Britain from the Gulf will be offered tests to check
levels of depleted uranium in their bodies to assess whether they are in
danger of suffering kidney damage and lung cancer as a result of exposure,
the Ministry of Defence says.

The ministry was responding to a warning on Thursday from the Royal Society,
Britain's premier scientific body, that soldiers and civilians might be
exposed to dangerous levels. It challenged earlier reassurances from the
Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, that depleted uranium was not a risk.

A ministry spokeswoman said that if soldiers followed instructions correctly
and wore respirators in areas where depleted uranium might have been used
they would not suffer dangerous exposure, but all would be offered urine
tests. The overall results would be published.

The ministry said it would also publish details of where and how much
depleted uranium was used, and hoped the United States would do the same.
Professor Brian Spratt, chairman of the society's working group on depleted
uranium, said: "It is highly unsatisfactory to deploy a large amount of a
material that is weakly radioactive and chemically toxic without knowing how
much soldiers and civilians have been exposed to it."

Civilians in Iraq should be protected by checking milk and water samples for
depleted uranium over a prolonged period, he said.

Some soldiers might suffer kidney damage and increased risk of lung cancer
if they breathed in substantial amounts.

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 19, 26 April 2003

by Kathleen Ridolfo

The "Resistance and Liberation Command in the Republic of Iraq" sent a copy
of its "Military Communique no. 2" to the Jordanian daily "Al-Arab al-Yawm"
on 22 April, claiming responsibility for two attacks against U.S. forces,
the paper reported on 23 April. The communique said a suicide bomber
attacked a checkpoint manned by U.S. troops on a road between the Mosul
Governorate and the city of Rabi'ah, destroying a U.S. military vehicle and
killing or wounding more than 21 soldiers. It also claimed another bomber
blew himself up at a U.S. military checkpoint on a road connecting the
cities of Hayt and Al Ramadi, killing or wounding about seven individuals.
"We warn and warn again all those who collaborate with the criminal invading
enemy that they will be punished in accordance with the teachings of our
true religion," the communique stated.

The 22 April communique also claimed that some foreign journalists in Iraq
are Israeli spies and alleged collusion between Israeli intelligence and the
INC opposition group. "We wish to warn the sons of our great Iraqi people of
the consequences of dealing with foreign journalists claiming to be of
different nationalities when in fact they are Zionists working for the
Israeli intelligence.

A number of those accompanied by the traitors from the 'not National
Congress' have terrorized our Palestinian brethren who have been residing
[in Iraq] for more than 40 years," the communique claimed. The Israeli daily
"Ha'aretz" reported a link between the INC and the American-Israeli
Political Action Committee (AIPAC), a Washington-based lobby, on 6 April


Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 27th April

BAGHDAD, 27 April 2003 ‹ At least 12 Iraqis died yesterday when an arms dump
exploded on the edge of Baghdad, sending rockets scything into nearby
houses, and residents blamed the Americans for the carnage.

The US military said unknown attackers fired an incendiary device into an
Iraqi munitions store at Zaafaraniya on the capitalıs southern outskirts,
triggering a series of blasts.

But local people turned their anger on the Americans, shooting at soldiers
trying to help relief efforts and forcing them back from the scene for a

Residents said US troops had packed cars with confiscated weapons and
detonated them at the site. The Americans denied this and said the location
of the dump near a residential area showed Saddam Husseinıs disregard for

Anti-American protests broke out later in the capital. About 500 men,
chanting anti American, pro-Islamic slogans, drove out of Zaafaraniya in a
convoy of trucks, buses and cars. One truck carried six coffins. Two banners
in English read: ³Stop Explosions Near Civilians² and ³The Terror After

Later, scores of men gathered in a central Baghdad square to protest at the
US military presence in Iraq, waving their fists and chanting: ³Yes, yes to
Islam! Yes, yes to Iraq!², while a religious leader with a megaphone egged
on the crowd.

The incident underlined how far Baghdad is from being pacified 17 days after
US troops took the city.

It was unclear how many people were killed in the blasts in Zaafaraniya, a
mixed residential-industrial suburb. The main hospital in the district said
at least 12 people had been killed and 40 injured, but medics said more
casualties were ferried to other hospitals. US Central Command in Qatar said
at least six people had died. One Iraqi medic on the scene said the blasts
had killed many people. Asked how many, he replied: ³Forty².

One distraught man, Tamir Kalaal, said his wife, father, brother and 11
other relatives had been killed when a rocket shot out of the arms dump and
destroyed their home.

The explosions were so loud they were heard in central Baghdad.

US troops in the city center told reporters initially that they were
controlled detonations, but later the American military spoke of an attack
by ³an unknown number of individuals².

³One soldier was wounded in the attack,² Central Command said in a
statement. ³During the attack, the assailant fired an unknown incendiary
device into the cache, causing it to catch fire and explode. The explosion
caused the destruction of the cache as well as a nearby building.²

But furious local residents immediately questioned this explanation,
claiming that US troops had been detonating Iraqi ordnance at the camp for
weeks, despite repeated requests to move it to a non-populated area.

³We have been saying to them, please do not do this. Itıs only 500 meters
away from our homes,² said Sami Sabah, as he sat outside the remains of his
brotherıs destroyed home. ³The Americans did this. They stopped blowing up
the ammunition four days ago and then they started again today,² said Sabah.

Meanwhile, US efforts to bring Iraqi towns and cities under control are
proving patchy. The rise of self-proclaimed leaders and Islamic leaders is
providing a major challenge to plans to introduce democracy and avert the
establishment of a theocratic state.

Self-declared mayors have taken over in Baghdad and Kut, near the border
with Iran. In Najaf in the south, Shiite groups are vying for power while in
Mosul in the north, tensions have flared between Arabs and Kurds.

In other towns, villages and cities it is not clear who is in charge in the
chaos following the collapse of the Saddam regime.

Jay Garner, the retired US general leading an interim administration until
an Iraqi government takes charge, is calling for a government that is a
³mosaic² of the different ethnic, religious and political groups in Iraq.


RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 19, 26 April 2003

by Kathleen Ridolfo

Muhammad Muhsin al-Zubaydi, who claims to be the appointed head of the
Baghdad Administration Executive Council, told Al-Jazeera television in a 24
April interview that the legitimacy of his leadership comes from the people
of Baghdad.

Al-Zubaydi said he is an independent opposition figure who has worked behind
the scenes for years and is thus not well known to the press.

He claims to have conducted clandestine activities against the Hussein
regime for years under the codenames "wolf" and "Abu Haydar al-Karradi."
Al-Zubaydi told Al-Jazeera that his group, which comprises 85 followers,
came to Baghdad from northern Iraq, Jordan, and Syria. He said that after
entering the capital on 8 April his group assumed a leadership role by
extinguishing fires, burying the dead, and preventing looting. "So, we
gained legitimacy to run the affairs of our city," he said, adding, "We were
able to open hospitals and form a police command in coordination with U.S.
troops." Al-Zubaydi also admitted to Al-Jazeera, despite his earlier
contradictory statements (see above), that he was not appointed by U.S.
troops, saying, "I do not have a relationship with the United States." He
said that he still intends to increase the wages of government workers and
pensioners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 April 2003), and said that pensions
have already been increased. Al-Zubaydi also told the satellite channel that
his people arrested a "gang" belonging to a "certain party" that attempted
to steal a vehicle carrying $260 million. He added that he encouraged the
party to return the money to the central bank, adding that he would reveal
the name of the party if the money is not returned. He also said that the
opposition group The Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM), headed by
Sharif Ali bin al-Husayn, is growing in popularity in Baghdad. "It seems
there is a great support for this movement," al-Zubaydi said, adding, "I do
not want to be biased in favor of one movement, but this is what I heard
from the clergymen and the tribal chiefs who expressed this to us."


by Charles J. Hanley
Las Vegas Sun, 27th April

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP): The U.S. military arrested a political pretender in
Baghdad on Sunday, while a Shiite Muslim group signaled a new willingness to
cooperate on the eve of a pivotal U.S.-sponsored conference to help form a
provisional government for Iraq.

The arrest of Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi reflected U.S. determination to
brook no interlopers in its effort to build a consensus for administering
Iraq. Timed just before Monday's high-profile conference, it sent a clear
message: Don't meddle.

Al-Zubaidi was a returned exile associated with the opposition Iraqi
National Congress who had declared himself mayor of Baghdad without sanction
from U.S. occupation authorities.

His activities, including designation of "committees" to run city affairs,
had complicated the efforts of postwar U.S. civil administrator Jay Garner
to reorganize political life. A U.S. military spokesman said al-Zubaidi was
arrested "for exercising authority which was not his."


*  13 killed in fight between U.S. troops, protesters
by Vivienne Walt and Jim Drinkard
Yahoo, from USA TODAY, 30th April

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A clash between anti-U.S. demonstrators and U.S. troops
left 13 Iraqis dead in the latest sign of instability in the newly liberated
country, witnesses said Tuesday. U.S. officials were pouring as many as
4,000 extra troops into Baghdad to increase security in the capital.

Accounts of what happened in the moonless dark of Monday night varied
wildly. Residents said a few hundred people marched peacefully toward the
local elementary school, chanting religious slogans and demanding that U.S.
servicemembers evacuate the school, which they have been using as a

''There were no guns, no arms in the demonstration,'' said Majid Khuder
Abbas, 23, a student who took part in the march. The marchers heard no
objections from U.S. soldiers posted nearby as they approached the school,
he said.

The U.S. soldiers inside the school, part of the 82nd Airborne Division,
said they were besieged by gunmen who opened fire on their temporary home
and seemed to ignore tear gas canisters and warning shots. Already on alert
for incidents tied to Saddam Hussein's birthday, long a national holiday,
they fired back in self-defense, 2nd Lt. Devin Woods said. ''Our snipers
engaged targets that had weapons,'' he said.

''In the dark, we saw muzzle flashes and responded to those,'' said Capt.
Frank Rosenblatt, an intelligence officer with the 82nd Airborne. No U.S.
troops were reported injured.

Ahmed Ghandim al-Ali, director of the hospital in this Euphrates River town
30 miles west of Baghdad, said the dead included three boys under age 11,
and 75 people were injured.

The conflicting accounts reflect the deepening divisions between many Iraqis
and the Americans seeking to restore order three weeks after they ousted
Saddam from power. Those divisions remain as President Bush prepares for a
speech Thursday in which he will declare that combat operations are over.

Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold friendly toward Saddam's deposed Baath
Party, was seething even before Monday's violence. Residents say U.S. forces
had briefly detained three local Muslim clerics last week and held six other
residents for a few hours. They said soldiers posted tanks outside the
town's mosques during Friday prayers.

''The feelings were already very sensitive,'' said Mohammed Afan, a
chemistry professor at Baghdad University who lives in Fallujah.

The clash was the latest in a series of incidents that have left many Iraqis
resentful of the continuing U.S. presence in their country. Saturday, an
explosion at an arms dump in a Baghdad neighborhood killed 12 civilians.
Marines fired on demonstrators in the northern city of Mosul on April 15 and
16, killing 10.

The violence cast a pall over Monday's progress at a Baghdad conference
where Iraqi factions agreed to call a national meeting next month to set up
a transitional government.

''They are stealing our oil and slaughtering our people,'' said Shuker
Abdullah Hamid, a cousin of one of those killed in the Fallujah shooting.
Mourners buried the dead Tuesday. Outside the school, people chanted for the
Americans to go home.

Lying in Fallujah General Hospital with a gunshot wound in his inner thigh,
Hassan Hudair, 16, said Tuesday that the U.S. shots came with little warning
-- not enough to disperse the crowd, he said. ''They threw gas grenades, and
then they started to shoot in the air, and right after that, they shot at
us,'' he said. ''I was at the heart of the demonstration.''

The patient in the next room had no doubts Tuesday about what should happen
next. ''We should get the Americans out by any means we can. Even guns,''
said Abdul Salam Mohammed, 30, a business-administration student at Baghdad
University. ''We'll fight them. They are occupiers.''

In Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Glenn Webster said up to 4,000 additional military
police and infantrymen will be brought in to help deter looting and
vandalism that are fueling a growing sense of insecurity among the city's
residents. The 12,000 soldiers there now can't keep up with law enforcement
needs in a city of 5 million, he said.



*  Fallujah - A Shooting Too Far?
by Felicity Arbuthnot
Published on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 by

The shooting of protesters outside a school at Fallujah, approximately 30
miles west of Baghdad - where US troops were apparently billeted - by US
troops reportedly from the 1st Battalion of 325th Airborne Infantry Division
of the 82nd Airborne Division, may be an outrage too far and return to haunt
the US and UK troops. Iraq is a country where historical memory is immediate
and like Ireland, perceived or actual injustices never fade.

Out of a crowd of two hundred, it seems seventy five were injured and
thirteen to fifteen killed - nearly half maimed or dead.

Fallujah was seized by the British under General Stanley Maude on 19th March
1917. He is buried in Baghdad's Rashid Cemetery. More recently Fallujah was
provided by the UK, in the 1980's with a fourteen million £ chemical factory
to produce chlorine and phenol, named the Tariq plant. The deal was
allegedly concealed from Parliament by the then Trade Minister, Sir Paul

When the Gulf war disrupted production at the Fallujah plant, Iraq
successfully claimed three hundred thousand pounds compensation from the UK
government"s Export Credit Guarantee Department. However, later Tariq became
subject of UN weapons Inspector"s (UNSCOM) scrutiny and accused of producing
chemical weapons, was destroyed.

Fallujah is seared into Iraq's collective psyche as completely as the attack
on the Ameriyah civilian air raid shelter, bombed by US planes during the
Gulf war. Also in 1991, the market in Fallujah was bombed, reportedly by US
planes flying very low. Other reports say the UK planes were also involved.

When residents ran to help the injured and seek the dead, in a familiar
pattern, the planes returned and bombed the rescuers.

Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark visited shortly after and reported
at least two hundred civilian deaths and a stunning five hundred injured.

The attacks also leveled an Egyptian owned hotel and a row of modern,
concrete five and six story apartments with a further (estimated at the
time) two hundred dead. Military spokespersons later said they were aiming
for a bridge, but Human Rights Watch reported that: "All buildings for four
hundred meters on either side of the street - houses and market, were

"The term 'collateral damage' is inapplicable", says Ramsey Clark, pointing
out that the attacks were in broad daylight, when much of the area would
have been at its most populated. He states that attacks on civilians were
stated by the military (then as now) were to "demoralize".

To visit Fallujah is to be shamed - and stoned. The only place in Iraq I
have ever experienced hostility. It is a hostility easy to understand. A
tour of the re-established market - or anywhere else, reveals traders with
amputated limbs who survived the attack - and not a person, seemingly, who
has not lost one or more of their family.

The Tariq plant at Fallujah was one of the stated reasons for the slaughter
and invasion of Gulf War Two. "Iraq had embedded key portions of its
chemical weapons infrastructure" Colin Powell is reported as saying, with
Prime Minister Blair faithfully repeating the allegation last Autumn. (How
they love that "embedded" word, does the Pentagon/State Department not have
a Thesaurus?)

I visited the plant in 1999 and another cited chemical weapon plant at Al
Doura in a suburb of Baghdad. Both had been completely trashed by UNSCOM.

Days before Colin Powell and Tony Blair made their allegation, Count Hans
von Sponeck, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Co-ordinator in
Iraq, visited both plants with a crew from German state television. He told
this writer: "They are in the same trashed state as when you and I visited
in 1999. There is one difference: the undergrowth is higher".

"Hearts and minds" are being lost in Iraq with stunning speed. This further
slaughter by an unwelcome, invading force, of a "liberated" crowd, may, I
predict, mark the beginning of the end for the "coalition." "They stole our
oil, now they are killing our people', said one grieving relative.

Writing this, I remembered the word on the street in Iraq, when I was there
little over a month ago. It was encapsulated by a western educated Iraqi
graduate of the Sorbonne, an intellectual who speaks numerous languages, a
true international. "Let them come", she said "we have been burying invaders
for centuries - and we have plenty of spaces next to General Maude".

by Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Online, in Nasiriyah, 29th April

With Iraq's hospitals in disarray, the long-term sick are being passed over
in a frantic effort to treat emergency cases. For the thousands of young
leukaemia victims, the outlook is bleaker than ever. There are countless
children ahead of Munther in the queue for medical help in Iraq.

The seven-year-old is not suffering from one of the conditions associated
with the war, such as gastroenteritis, pneumonia or shrapnel wounds. He has
acute lymphatic anaemia, also known as leukaemia.

It is a deadly disease - a cancer of the white blood cells - and if Munther
is not treated he will die but the war has dealt a potentially fatal blow to
the young boy, from Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq.

 Munther has been unable to travel the 230 miles to Baghdad for his monthly
treatment session at a specialist cancer care hospital, where he receives
chemotherapy drugs injected into the spine and intravenously. Safety has
been a concern for Munther's father, Yahia al Abbas, who has always gone
with his son on trips to the capital. While there is still lawlessness, Mr
Abbas is reluctant to venture far from home, although he believes the
security situation is starting to ease.

More critical is that the hospital in Baghdad which looks after Munther was
pillaged by looters in the wake of the fighting and is today barely
functioning. Also, supplies of some cancer-treatment drugs have run out in
recent weeks as Iraqi border controls have tightened and distribution
networks have seized up.

Munther's medicine dried up a week ago and no-one knows if, or when, new
supplies will be available.

"I've been to the American [military] hospital in Nasiriyah and the Red
Cross for help but they only handle first aid and they can't do anything,"
says Mr Abbas. "My son's in bad health at the moment. He has vomiting,
fever, anaemia and a suppressed immunity.

"I'm praying that the Americans and British and other countries will help
Iraq's sufferers of chronic disease. My worry is that my son could die
because of what happened. Because of this, I see a dark future for my

It's a story that is being repeated across Iraq, as cancer sufferers and
others who are critically ill and in need of regular treatment, are passed
over in the post-war rush to treat medical emergencies.

"People come up to me many times a day asking for cancer drugs," says Dr
Mary McLoughlin, based in Nasiriyah with the humanitarian agency Goal. "I'm
aware that many of these people will die because the emphasis at the moment
is on primary healthcare." Leukaemia, which affects blood and bone marrow,
used to be relatively rare in Iraq. According to the former health ministry,
cases of the cancer increased fourfold after the first Gulf War and many
have blamed the use of depleted uranium munitions used by the allied forces
in that conflict.

Even before the war, cancer patients had to rely on black market supplies to
bolster medicines available through the state.

After Munther was diagnosed with leukaemia 14 months ago, Mr Abbas started
to secure some drugs through unofficial channels, mostly with lorry drivers
going to Jordan or Syria.

At up to $100, the price was prohibitive for Mr Abbas, who used to earn $40
a month as a department head at Nasiriyah's technical college, until the war
started. He has not been paid in two months.

Family, friends and religious associates used to help out with the cost, and
Munther always received the treatment he needed, says his father.

At Nasiriyah's Women's and Paediatric hospital, which is functioning at
quarter capacity after an artillery round hit a wing of the hospital,
doctors feel powerless to help such cases.

Last week, when a six-year-old girl called Zahra was diagnosed with acute
lympoblastic leukaemia at the hospital, Dr Nima Altemimi told her to go
south, to Basra.

His reasoning - that by sending her to a bigger city, her case might come to
the attention of the Kuwaiti government, which has airlifted a handful of
severely sick children from Iraq. "We can't treat these people in Iraq now.
The specialist hospitals in Baghdad and Basra have been looted. We're doing
all we can just to concentrate on infections and some curable diseases,"
says the hospital's Dr Abdul Ghaffar al-Shadood.

A few minutes later he finds another case. By now, the facts are all too
familiar. Mustafa Arif Hameed, eight, was diagnosed last August with acute
lymphocytic leukaemia. He had been making progress but has been brought to
the hospital by his father because his medicine has run out.

"If the treatment is discontinued now," says Dr Shadood, "his improvement
will be reversed."

by Saul Hudson
Reuters, 30th April

BAQUBA, Iraq: Iraqi exile groups have grabbed control of the government in a
major northeastern city but die-hard Saddam Hussein loyalists and feuding
armed militia threaten to undermine the power-sharing deal.

The new government's authority is already challenged by the exiled Iranian
militia People's Mujahideen who control a main highway about 13 miles from
the city of Baquba with mounted gun positions behind sandbags at a

The volatile mix poses problems for the United States as it tries to
stabilize Iraq after toppling Saddam, especially because its soldiers only
established a base last weekend in Baquba, the capital of Diala province
which stretches from the fringes of Baghdad to the Iranian border.

A returning exile espousing political independence sits in the mayor's
office, the Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group -- the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) -- occupies the local parliament and a
Kurdish party with armed guards in military fatigues and sneakers has taken
up residence in a state sports complex.

"Each group tries to meet the needs of their supporters, while we have also
set up committees to organize basic services, such as electricity and
policing," said Ibrahim al Rubaiy, who Baquba residents on Wednesday called
the acting governor.

Rubaiy, who had lived in the Kurdish-controlled north of Iraq since 1980
writing anti Saddam newspaper articles, said he returned to his hometown
after the three-week war. Leaders from local tribes set up an executive
group for the city and elected him head in a secret ballot, he said.

Residents praised his efforts to help restore electricity and put police on
the streets but he complained state employees, still loyal to Saddam,
deliberately worked slowly to create the impression the old government was a
better administration.

Rubaiy also accused the Mujahideen, whom Washington has called a "terrorist"
group, of stealing arms caches abandoned by Saddam's security forces and
fostering a sense of insecurity despite the renewed police patrols.

Last week U.S. forces agreed a cease-fire with the Mujahideen across Iraq,
under which they said group members would move into assembly areas in a
"non-combat formation."

U.S. troops said the night-time curfew they imposed has not stopped frequent
shooting attacks on their patrols. Nor has it prevented hours-long shootouts
that light up the sky with red tracer fire between unidentified groups in
the city, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad and 90 km from the Iranian

The U.S. military has arrested a self-appointed mayor in Baghdad and evicted
the resident mayor of the southern city of Kut from his compound along with
hundreds of supporters, but has little intelligence and faces a more
complicated mix in Baquba.

"We are a bit edgy. There's a lot of different factions jockeyeing for power
in the city," Lieutenant John Parsons of the Fourth Infantry Division said.

Graffiti throughout the city revealed the power struggle between the
supporters and foes of Saddam.

"Death to Saddam the infidel" had been painted over and replaced by "Baath
party (of Saddam) lives." Somebody had scrawled "thief" next to graffiti
praising Ahmed Chalabi, a former exile and apparent Pentagon choice to lead
the new Iraq.

The SCIRI propaganda was more conciliatory in a city that is majority Sunni,
the Muslim group that dominated Saddam's government. "Sunnis and Shi'ites
unite" read one banner. "We have come back to pray and create harmony among
our people," said another.

Still, SCIRI's military wing, the Badr Brigade, was present in the area and
willing to fight the Mujahideen or other armed groups who might vie for
control of the city, local SCIRI spokesman Abu Haidar al-Hatamy said.

Such threats worry the United States which has repeatedly warned Iran -- an
Islamist state it has bracketed with Iraq and North Korea in an "axis of
evil" -- not to meddle in the transition to a post-Saddam Iraqi government.

Despite the fighting and the politics, residents said most Baquba people
agreed on one thing -- they want the Americans out.

"If they stay too long then they will see us all unite, no matter our
differences, and we will rise up against them," said traffic policeman Riyad


CNN, 24th April

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has warned the Iranian
government to stay out of Iraq and not interfere with the country in its
"road to democracy," the White House said Wednesday.

While not explicitly confirming reports that Iranian agents were making
their way into Iraq, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "We have
concerns about this matter.

"We have well-known channels of communication with Iran, and we have made
clear to Iran that we oppose the outside interference in Iraq's road to
democracy. ... Infiltration of agents to destabilize the Shiite population
would clearly fall into that category."

A Pentagon official Wednesday told CNN that intelligence reports received in
the past few days indicate an unknown number of Iranian-backed agents have
moved into southern Iraq to promote Shiite and Iranian interests with the
Shiite community there.

The reports indicate the Iranians are operating around Najaf, Karbala and
Basra. Some of them may be members of the Badr Brigade, a Shiite militia
group based in Iran, this official said.

A majority of Iraq's population are Shiite Muslims, and thousands have
attended rallies calling for the creation of an Islamic state in Iraq and
demanding that U.S-led coalition forces leave.

Fleischer would not say at what level or through what means the message was
communicated to Iran. The United States and Iran do not have diplomatic

by Saul Hudson
Financial Times, 23rd April

KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - Huge crowds of ecstatic Shi'ites are winding up a
pilgrimage long banned by Saddam Hussein, their sheer numbers and
organisation signalling to Washington they will be a powerful force in the
new Iraq.

As hundreds of thousands of chanting Muslims, many smeared with blood,
completed the pilgrimage on Wednesday, Washington showed concern about
increased Iranian influence in Iraq because of the rising power of its
Shi'ite co-religionists.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in Washington: "We've made clear to
Iran that we would oppose any outside interference in Iraq's road to


The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted Bush administration officials as
saying they had focused so much on ousting Saddam that they had not given
much thought to how the ensuing power vacuum would be filled.

The officials said the administration had underestimated the organisational
strength of the Shi'ite majority and were not in a position to prevent the
possible rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government.

Shi'ites, who make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population, beat their
chests, slashed their scalps with swords and whipped themselves with chains
as they marked one of the most sacred festivals of their calendar in
Kerbala, 70 miles (110 km) south of Baghdad.

Shi'ite leaders said they expected a million or more people to attend the
Arbaiin pilgrimage to the tomb of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet
Mohammad, who was killed there 13 centuries ago.

Shi'ites flagellate themselves during the festival to show their pain for
the death of Hussein and to atone for the guilt of their forefathers in
allowing him to be killed.

It was first time the pilgrimage, ruthlessly suppressed by Saddam, had been
held in nearly three decades.

Despite their joy at the overthrow of Saddam, a Sunni, many of the pilgrims
demanded U.S. troops get out of Iraq.

Bush himself appeared unconcerned at the demonstration of Shi'ite
solidarity. "I love the stories about people saying, 'Isn't it wonderful to
be able to express our religion, the Shia religion, on a pilgrimage this
weekend.' It made my day to read that," Bush told Newsweek.

In Tehran, Iraqi Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Baqer al-Hakim said he was ready
to work with the United States and others to establish security and
stability in his war-torn homeland.

But Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
and one of the most powerful forces among Iraq's Shi'ites, said the Kerbala
pilgrimage showed Iraqis were able to govern themselves.

He said there was no direct parallel between Iraq and Iran's Islamic
republic. "We should not make a copy of the Iranian revolution and establish
it in Iraq," he said.


by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 26th April

The first strange scene: Arabs defend Iraqis who cursed their fallen
leaders. And in the second scene, the emergence of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Kubaisi
as the first to benefit from America's victory, even though he was amongst
the first to criticize America before the conflict began. His arrival at the
Abu-Haneefa Mosque in Baghdad last Friday under American protection showed
the change in politics.

How did the Sheikh get from his studio in Dubai to the mosque? This is a
question that has aroused considerable curiosity among both those who
support and those oppose him. His supporters see in him an Iraqi national
who has the right to go back to his home, preach at his mosque and lead his
people. They praise his message and wish him success among the people of his
sect. His anti-American stand is a brave one and must not be underestimated.

As for his opponents, they can't believe that the man that was warning
against the war and its consequences is now the first to benefit from it.
One person wondered at the Arab commentators who are denouncing Ahmed
Chalabi for coming with the American forces. At least Chalabi was the one
that pushed the Americans to battle Saddam and spent 10 years of his life
preparing for the downfall of Saddam. Consequently he has the right to go
back and share in the new government.

As for Sheikh Kubaisi, he spent his years relaxing in Dubai, and here he is
jumping at the first opportunity to reap what others sowed for him; and now
he pretends to have been brave in facing the American invaders, although he
was never very outspoken in his criticism of the Iraqi regime.

Truly none of us can deny Kubaisi because he was wrong when he said that
there would be no victory in this war and when it does is the first to pluck
its fruit. I believe that though Kubaisi didn't falsely accuse anyone when
he went to his mosque, he was wrong to include in his sermon insults and
personal ridicule in the style of satellite channels that are not
appropriate either to the venue or to his call for tolerance. The media
should have abandoned this manner, and instead it has infected the mosques.
Kubaisi is turning the Friday sermon into a satirical program in which he
makes fun of the president of a country or Arab Union and United Nations

No one wants to see the deposed Iraqi minister of information, Al Sahaf,
emerge from Baghdad with the same language and insults and take them into
the mosque, and sit in the pulpit using that same base language. The new
millennium should have brought with it respect for others, no matter how we
may differ from them and no matter what their rank.

What is more dangerous though is the incitement to political sedition.
Kubaisi here excelled at leading both Shiites and Sunnis in prayer and
preaching in his sermon on issues that unite rather than separate. Saddam's
actions united the Iraqis in hatred for him and his regime because his
victims were a mix of Sunnis, Arabs and Kurds ‹ even his family in the town
of Tikrit weren't spared.

We must not be fooled though into thinking that Kubaisi's appearance on the
political scene, as a Sunni standing with the citizens of Baghdad and their
spokesman on a par with the Shiite and Kurdish leadership, is a brilliant
political move. In truth it is not ‹ just as Bin Laden was sent to liberate
Afghanistan from the Soviets, so history will repeat itself. The Iraqis have
coexisted more than any other Arab or Islamic society. Most of their
conflicts have been limited to political leadership. The solution to the
Iraqi mosaic is civil ‹ respecting people as individuals and giving them the
right to free choice and not to confine them to Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish,
Turkmen or Christian identities.

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 19, 26 April 2003

by Kathleen Ridolfo

The supporters of deceased cleric Muhammad al-Sadr II are reportedly in
discussions with Ayatollah Kazim al-Ha'iri, a prominent Iraqi Shi'ite cleric
currently based in Qom, Iran, for al-Ha'iri to assume the movement's
leadership, according to a 24 April report on the "Al Mustaqbal" website
( According to the report, Sayyid Muqtada
al-Sadr, son of the murdered leader Muhammad, had assumed the management of
the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite seminary and schools but is not prepared to assume
"the work of a religious authority," while al-Ha'iri, known as "the
jurisprudent of the Al-Da'wah," might be a better candidate for the
leadership role. "Al-Mustaqbal" noted that al-Ha'iri represents "the point
of convergence" between the al-Sadr current, the Al-Da'wah, and the Supreme
Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). He reportedly also has
strong relations with the religious authorities in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon.

RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 19, 26 April 2003


Military personnel allegedly detained a Shi'a cleric, Shaykh Muhammad
al-Fartusi, a representative of the office of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq
al-Sadr, and several companions on 20 April as they headed home from
Al-Najaf, Hizballah's Al-Manar television reported on 21 April. An
Al-Jazeera television correspondent reported that 4,000-5,000 people on 21
April demonstrated against the detentions near Baghdad's Palestine Hotel.
One of the demonstrators told the Al-Jazeera correspondent, "We are trying
to...control the security situation, [but] the Americans do not want this.
They want chaos and looting to prevail." Another demonstration took place on
22 April. The United States has not confirmed the alleged detentions.

Al-Fartusi was released the next day and described his detention in a 22
April interview with Abu Dhabi television. "We were manhandled and beaten,"
he claimed, and added that he and his companions spent the entire night with
their hands tied behind their backs. Fartusi claimed that one of his captors
kicked his turban and the commander apologized for this, but "I am wearing
my friend's turban now." He added, "We let it go this time," warning, "But
next time, only God knows what will happen if the masses are aroused." (Bill

...AS ANOTHER SHI'A CLERIC IS DETAINED. U.S. military personnel briefly
detained Islamic Action Organization in Iraq leaders Grand Ayatollah
Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarissi and Ibrahim al-Mutairi on 22 April, according to
news agencies, a press release at, and Al-Jazeera
satellite television. Others who were detained at the time are Ayatollah
Izz-al-Din Muhammad al-Shirazi, Ayatollah Husayn al-Rabadi, and Ibrahim
Shubbar. Mudarissi, who has lived in Iran for 32 years, and his companions
were in a four-vehicle convoy that was heading for Karbala. (Bill Samii)


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