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News, 10-17/9/03 (2) SECURITY * Suspicion falls on Chechens for Iraqi blasts * Suicide bomber hits U.S. compound * [Two US soldiers killed, Tuesday and Wednesday, 9th and 10th] * 2 trucks destroyed in attack on convoy * Trafficking in chaos on streets of Baghdad * US killing of eight Iraqi police fuels anger in troubled town * A hail of bullets, a trail of dead, and a mystery the US is in no hurry to resolve * US, Shiites say arms crisis averted * Iraqi munitions sites remain vulnerable * New Iraqi army is born in desert * Fallujah police chief shot dead * Iraq's Security Weakened by Fear * Iraqi cop chief ambushed * US Reveals 4,000 Extra 'Security Detainees' in Iraq * U.S. Forces Arrest Shoemakers Fearing They Turn Glue Into Bombs IRAQI RESISTANCE * Ansar Al-Islam says it is regrouping, calls for fatwa against U.S. * Iraqi fighters reject label of terrorist SECURITY http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EI09Ak01.html * SUSPICION FALLS ON CHECHENS FOR IRAQI BLASTS by B Raman Asia Times, 9th September There are indications that Arab nationals of Chechen origin belonging to al-Qaeda were responsible for the four explosions in Iraq recently - three in Baghdad and one at Najaf. The explosions in Baghdad were directed at the Jordanian Embassy, a building housing the offices of the United Nations and its allied organizations, and police headquarters. The explosion at Najaf, the deadliest of the four, outside the Imam Ali Shrine, killed about 120 Shi'ite worshippers coming out of the shrine, including Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al Hakim, who returned to Iraq after it was occupied by troops of the United States and the United Kingdom from his more than 20-year exile in Iran. He was viewed by followers of deposed president Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda as a US surrogate. According to sources in Pakistan, which are well informed on the activities of the Osama bin Laden-led International Islamic Front (IIF), about 50 Arab nationals of Chechen origin, who are members of al-Qaeda or closely associated with it, have infiltrated Iraq from the Waziristan area of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. They were responsible not only for the attacks on US soldiers in many incidents, but also for the four explosions. They reportedly received the explosives and other material for the explosions from the ordnance stocks of Saddam's disbanded army. It is said that the explosions, using vehicles, closely resembled those that have taken place in Chechnya in the past. Elements close to the IIF in Pakistan have been saying that the United States is in a vulnerable position in Iraq at present and that if the jihadis miss this opportunity to humiliate it, they will not get another one for some time. They also say that by teaching the US a lesson in Iraq that it will not forget, they could protect other Islamic countries from similar intervention by the United States and weaken its credibility as a superpower. The jihadis have been recalling the Beirut car-bomb attack against US marines in the early 1980s, which resulted in the death of more than 200, after which Ronald Reagan, then president of the United States, ordered a withdrawal of US troops from the Lebanon. It is reported that the jihadis are planning a similar massive explosion against US troops in Iraq, designed to cause a large number of casualties, possibly coinciding with the second anniversary of September 11, 2001. Many Chechens, whose ancestors left the Caucasus during the 1817-64 Caucasian war, now live in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Persian Gulf countries and have acquired the local nationality. A large number of them had joined the 6,000 plus jihadi mercenary force raised by the US Central Intelligence Agency through Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 1980s to fight against the Soviet troops and they fought in Afghanistan under bin Laden. They maintained their links with bin Laden after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988. Some of them were taken by bin Laden into his al-Qaeda and IIF and worked as instructors in training camps in Afghan territory. They were also used by the ISI for training the Taliban militia after 1994 and for assisting the Taliban in its fight against the Northern Alliance. Many others were sent to Chechnya by bin Laden after 1994 to assist the indigenous Chechen groups in their jihad against Moscow for an Islamic caliphate. B Raman is additional secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, government of India, and currently director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai; former member of the National Security Advisory Board of the government of India. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. He was also head of the counter-terrorism division of the Research & Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, from 1988 to August 1994. http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Artic le_Type1&c=Article&cid=1063231812457&call_pageid=968332188854&col=9683500607 24 * SUICIDE BOMBER HITS U.S. COMPOUND by NABIL AL-TAEI >From Reuters, 11th September ARBIL, IRAQA suicide bomber in northern Iraq killed himself and two Iraqi children and wounded more than 50 people, including four American intelligence officers, according to local people and the U.S. military yesterday. The military also announced the deaths of two more American soldiers, killed by makeshift bombs in Baghdad. In the fifth vehicle bomb attack in Iraq in as many weeks, a four-wheel drive loaded with TNT stopped suddenly in front of a house in the Kurdish city of Arbil late Tuesday and exploded with the driver inside, residents said. They said the house was used by U.S. intelligence agents. The U.S. military in Baghdad said four officers of the Defence Human Intelligence Service part of the Defence Intelligence Agency, the military counterpart to the CIA were wounded along with a Kurdish guard. In Washington, DIA spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. James Brooks identified the wounded only as military intelligence officials. He would not confirm they were from his agency. Fierce flames leapt into the night sky after the blast. A woman hurried away cradling a baby and an armed man carried a bloodied man over his shoulder from the scene. A U.S. military official said two children one a 12-year-old boy, the other a two-year-old were among the dead. Forty-seven Iraqis were wounded. The bombing 350 kilometres north of Baghdad was the latest setback to U.S.-led efforts to pacify Iraq following the war that ousted Saddam Hussein on April 9. Almost 70 U.S. soldiers have been killed by hostile fire since the official end of combat in Iraq May 1. [.....] http://www.sunspot.net/news/nationworld/bal te.iraq11sep11,0,5252252.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines * [TWO US SOLDIERS KILLED, TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY, 9TH AND 10TH] Baltimore Sun, from Associated Press, 11th September [.....] One U.S. soldier from the 1st Armored Division was killed yesterday while trying to detonate a roadside bomb, the military said. The victim was part of an ordnance detonating team that had tried to blow up the bomb by shooting it with a 50-caliber machine gun on a Bradley fighting vehicle. The bomb did not explode when fired at, but blew up as the soldier went to inspect it. On Tuesday, one soldier was killed and another wounded when a homemade bomb exploded on a supply route northeast of the capital, the U.S. Central Command said. The soldiers were from the Army's 3rd Corps Support Command. [,,,,,] http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/world/2094626 * 2 TRUCKS DESTROYED IN ATTACK ON CONVOY Houston Chronicle, 11th September BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP): Attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. military convoy west of Baghdad Thursday, touching off an intense firefight that left at least one American soldier wounded, the military said. Tanks and other vehicles from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment came under attack in Fallujah, part of the dangerous "Sunni Triangle" region about 60 miles west of the capital, said U.S. Army Capt. Jeff Fitzgibbons, coalition spokesman in Baghdad. Other "U.S. forces responding to the scene came under fire and returned fire at houses nearby," Fitzgibbons said. One U.S. soldier was wounded, said Fitzgibbons and a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity. There was no information regarding casualties among attackers. Two U.S. military trucks were also destroyed during the fighting along Highway 10, the officials said. The Fallujah region has been one of the most dangerous for U.S. soldiers. Support for ousted dictator Saddam Hussein runs strongest in the region. Pictures from Khaldia, 20 miles west of Fallujah, showed a burning tank transport truck, a burning 5-ton truck and at least one burning Humvee. Kanaan Ali Ibrahim, a witness, said the convoy was moving from Habaniya to Ramadi when Iraqi mujahedeen ambushed it with rocket-propelled grenades. A small crowd gathered at the scene of the attack and began shouting jubilantly "Allahu Akbar," or God is great, and "Oh, Iraq, we sacrifice our lives and blood for you." An Abrams tank could be seen on the APTN video and there was the sound of a prolonged gunbattle, with the shooting appearing to be coming mainly from the tank and other heavy guns. The Iraqi guerrillas that carry out such ambushes normally carry only Kalashnikov automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Earlier, an American soldier died Thursday in a highly unusual accident, the military reported. The soldier was killed and two others were slightly injured when a tire they were changing on a "heavy expanded mobility tactical truck" exploded, the U.S. Central Command said. The incident occurred near Balad, 45 miles north of Baghdad. Meanwhile, the top American military man in Iraq said Thursday the country was becoming the key battlefield for the U.S.-led war on terrorism -- a war he said would not end quickly. "It's clear to me that this is the next battleground in the global war on terrorism that we have been on now for two years," said Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. "It's a war that will continue for some time. But there's absolutely no question in my mind that the American people are committed to winning this war." He said the increasing threat of terrorist attacks in Iraq was "a natural follow-up battle in that war on terrorism" that began with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime and its al Qaida allies from Afghanistan. http://www.iht.com/articles/109760.html * TRAFFICKING IN CHAOS ON STREETS OF BAGHDAD by John Tierney International Herald Tribune, New York Times, 12th September BAGHDAD: Before the war, in that bygone era when Baghdad's drivers stopped for red lights and drove on the right, Kahramana Square was controlled by one traffic policeman. Now there are 12, and they were still not enough to deter the guy in the red Caprice. He drove from a side street up onto a sidewalk, then crossed against four lanes of oncoming cars to enter the traffic circle counterclockwise. As he wove across another six lanes of oncoming cars, a policeman named Ali Hussein Hamza dared to suggest an alternate route. This so appalled the driver that he got out of his car and administered a head butt to Hamza's forehead. The head butt, which drew blood and sent the policeman to the hospital, was enough to get the man arrested - an extraordinary experience for any driver since Operation Iraqi Freedom transformed Baghdad. On the streets here, freedom's just another word for the wildest traffic in the history of the city, and quite possibly the world. You could think of Baghdad traffic as the perfect storm. First the rules vanished in the chaos of the invasion, when there was no electricity for stoplights and no police officers to enforce the laws. Every intersection became a perpetual game of chicken among cars, trucks, buses and carts drawn by horses and donkeys. Every lane became potentially two-way, even on expressways, where there quickly became no distinction between entrance and exit ramps. Then, thanks to the newly opened borders and an end to Saddam Hussein's 300 percent tax on imported automobiles, the price of cars plummeted and the streets became jammed with new imported (and unregistered) motor vehicles. Meanwhile, American soldiers blocked streets with temporary checkpoints and permanent barriers. To keep car bombs away from high-rise hotels and their own headquarters, the occupying forces closed major arteries in central Baghdad and a critical bridge across the Tigris. Near Kahramana Square it takes 45 minutes to travel a block. "This is the hardest job in Baghdad," said Hamza, an hour after the head butt the other morning, as he returned to the square with a bandage on his head. It was his third injury on the job in the past month - his foot and his leg had each been smashed - and he announced he was quitting. His boss, Colonel Mahdi Hamoudi, sent him home to rest and promised him a transfer. "He's right, the job is impossible," the colonel said. "We have no authority." Before the war, he explained, traffic policemen could not only issue tickets but also impound a car on the spot. "People knew there were courts to enforce the laws," he said. "We had respect. We had guns, too. But they were all stolen from the station by looters when the Americans came." Hamoudi was wearing a small pistol, a personal one he had saved from the looters, but the other policemen said they could not afford to arm themselves. They complained that there was no point in issuing tickets, since so many of the cars had fake license plates. Besides all the new unregistered cars from across the border, there was also a huge number of stolen cars as a result of the recent epidemic of carjacking. "Look at that Ali Baba," said one policeman, Muhammad Nouri Azziz, pointing to the driver of a gray BMW. "I know his face. I've seen him driving other stolen cars, too, but what can I do? No one's afraid of us anymore. We need two pistols each, like cowboys in Texas." As Azziz dashed off to try to stop another car from entering the traffic counterclockwise, Hamoudi gripped his pistol and shook his head. "I am amazed at the way Iraqis are acting," he said. "What happened to them? This is not freedom. This is chaos." If Baghdad traffic represents the state of nature, it confirms the philosopher Thomas Hobbes's dark view of humanity: Without the iron hand of Leviathan, brutishness will prevail. But how could civility disappear so completely? What happened to people's instinct for working out codes of conduct voluntarily, as documented by evolutionary psychologists and economic historians? These questions were put to Daniel Klein, an American economist who has studied both modern traffic problems and the evolution of cooperation. He is the editor of "Reputation: Studies in the Voluntary Elicitation of Good Conduct." The problem in Baghdad, Klein said, is that the drivers don't have to worry about their reputations. They're constantly involved in what are called one-off transactions - one-time meetings with strangers. "Even when there's no law governing people, repeated interactions, especially face-to-face ones, can give rise to cooperation and eventually institutions, norms and practices that continually improve," Klein said. "But on the road, people are in their own bubble, sealed off from each other, and they scarcely worry about repeated interactions." The only solution, then, seems to be in some form of Hobbesian threat, and the traffic policemen at Kahramana Square have an idea inspired by the sculpture in the square. It depicts Kahramana, the Iraqi name for the maid of the original Ali Baba in the story from "The Arabian Nights." The sculpture shows her pouring a pot of boiling oil into a jar where one of the 40 thieves is hiding. "We should be pouring hot oil on these drivers," Azziz said. "But we need more than a pot of oil. It would take a tanker truck." http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1041146,00.html * US KILLING OF EIGHT IRAQI POLICE FUELS ANGER IN TROUBLED TOWN by Rory McCarthy in Falluja The Guardian, 13th September The US military reignited tension in one of Iraq's most troubled towns yesterday when its troops mistakenly shot dead eight policemen who were chasing a car full of suspected bandits. American military officials were at a loss last night to explain why their soldiers opened fire with heavy machines guns on the officers, who were in two clearly marked Iraqi police cars in the town of Falluja. As well as the eight who died, four other policemen were injured. Their patrol cars had their sirens on and their warning lights flashing as they chased the suspects through the centre of town early yesterday. As the vehicles passed in front of a US military base American tanks opened fire without warning. The suspect car, a dark BMW believed to be carrying several gunmen, disappeared untouched by the shooting. Police officers described how they pleaded with the soldiers to stop firing as their colleagues died around them. A Jordanian security guard on duty at a Jordanian-funded hospital opposite the US base was also killed. Four other guards outside the hospital were injured and the buildings were seriously damaged by heavy American shelling. In a separate incident in another troubled Sunni town near Falluja, two US troops were killed and seven others were injured during a raid in Ramadi. The US authorities refused to elaborate on the operation. Many in Falluja are already fiercely critical of the US military occupation, in part because they represent the small Sunni community that prospered under Saddam Hussein and has now lost its influence. Even those who welcomed the fall of the Iraqi dictator lost any sympathy for the US troops after they opened fire on a crowd of unarmed protesters in Falluja in May, killing 18 people and leaving at least 70 injured. At Falluja's main hospital yesterday Abdul Kader Jasim, 30, stood at the bedside of one of his wounded colleagues as he described how the two cars were attacked. The men were part of a uniformed Iraqi protection force working alongside the police with the knowledge and support of the US military. Mr Jasim, a non-commissioned police officer, was driving the first of the two police patrol cars, a blue and white saloon car marked clearly with a police sign. The cars were on a routine patrol when they took a call on their radio at around 1.30 am telling them to search for the suspect BMW. Gunmen in the car had fired at the main police station in the town and drove off into the night. "The Americans knew very well that we have patrols on these roads every night," Mr Jasim said. "We had our lights flashing and our siren on as we went past the American base. But they put their spotlights on us and then they started shooting us. We shouted at them: 'We are police. We are police.' But they just kept on shooting - at our engines, our tyres, the glass, the doors." Eight policemen in the second car, a pick-up, were killed instantly. Two others in the car were seriously injured. The shooting lasted at least 30 minutes. "This is so very wrong," Mr Jasim said. "These people are asking us to provide security and then they are killing us." The US military refused to discuss the incident and issued a statement saying only that one US soldier and five "neutral individuals" were injured in an attack near the Jordanian hospital in Falluja. The statement said US troops were attacked by a rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. Outside the hospital yesterday lay empty shells from heavy machine gun rounds. There were bullet holes in the main building and a two-storey block to one side was badly damaged. By late yesterday no US officer had appeared at the main police station in Falluja to apologise or explain what had happened. Lieutenant Ayad Dulaimi, 25, said policing in Falluja had become increasingly difficult because people associated the police with the US military. "We are filled with grief for our dead colleagues," he said. "The fact there has been no apology only adds fuel to the fire." http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/story.jsp?story=442890 * A HAIL OF BULLETS, A TRAIL OF DEAD, AND A MYSTERY THE US IS IN NO HURRY TO RESOLVE by Robert Fisk The Independent, 14th September A human brain lay beside the highway. It was scattered in the sand, blasted from its owner's head when the Americans ambushed their own Iraqi policemen. A few inches away were a policeman's teeth, broken but clean dentures, the teeth of a young man. "I don't know if they are the teeth of my brother - and I don't even know if my brother is alive or dead," Ahmed Mohamed shouted at me. "The Americans took the dead and the wounded away - they won't tell us anything." Ahmed Mohamed was telling the truth. He is also, I should add, an Iraqi policeman working for the Americans. United States forces in Iraq officially stated - incredibly - that they had "no information" about the killing of the 10 cops and the wounding of five others early yesterday morning. Unfortunately, the Americans are not telling the truth. Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division fired thousands of bullets in the ambush, hundreds of them smashing the wall of a building in the neighbouring Jordanian Hospital compound, setting several rooms on fire. And if they really need "information", they have only to look at the 40mm grenade cartridges scattered in the sand near the brains and teeth. On each is printed the coding "AMM LOT MA-92A170-024". This is a US code for grenades belt-fired from an American M-19 gun. And out in Fallujah, where infuriated Iraqi civilians roamed the streets after morning prayers looking for US patrols to stone, it wasn't difficult to put the story together. The local Americand-trained and American-paid police chief, Qahtan Adnan Hamad - who confirmed that 10 died - described how, not long after midnight yesterday morning, gunmen in a BMW car had opened fire on the Mayor's office in Fallujah. Two squads of the American-trained and American-paid police force - from the local Fallujah constabulary established by US forces last month and the newly constituted Iraqi national police - set off in pursuit. Since the Americans will not reveal the truth, let Ahmed Mohamed, whose 28-year-old brother, Walid, was one of the policemen who gave chase, tell his story. "We have been told that the BMW opened fire on the mayor's office at 12.30am. The police chased them in two vehicles, a Nissan pick-up and a Honda car and they set off down the old Kandar roads toward Baghdad. "But the Americans were there in the darkness, outside the Jordanian Hospital, to ambush cars on the road. They let the BMW through and then fired at the police cars." One of the policemen who was wounded in the second vehicle said the Americans suddenly appeared on the darkened road. "When they shouted at us, we stopped immediately," he said. "We tried to tell them we were police. They just kept on shooting." The latter is true. I found thousands of brass cartridge cases at the scene, piles of them like autumn leaves glimmering in the sun, along with the dark green grenade cartridges. There were several hundred unfired bullets but - far more disturbing - was the evidence on the walls of a building at the Jordanian Hospital. At least 150 rounds had hit the breeze-block wall and two rooms had burned out, the flames blackening the outside of the building. And therein lies another mystery that the Americans were yesterday in no hurry to resolve. Several Iraqis said that a Jordanian doctor in the hospital had been killed and five nurses wounded. Yet when I approached the hospital gate, I was confronted by three armed men who said they were Jordanian. To enter hospitals here now, you must obtain permission from the occupation authorities in Baghdad - which is rarely, if ever, forthcoming. No-one wants journalists prowling round dismal mortuaries in "liberated" Iraq. Who knows what they might find. "The doctors have gone to prayer so you cannot come in," an unsmiling Jordanian gunman at the gate told me. On the roof of the shattered hospital building, two armed and helmeted guards watched us. They looked to me very like Jordanian troops. And their hospital is opposite a US 3rd Infantry Division base. Are the Jordanians here for the Americans? Or are the Americans guarding the Jordanian Hospital? When I asked if the bodies of the dead policemen were here, the armed man at the gate shrugged his shoulders. So what happened? Did the Americans shoot down their Iraqi policemen under the mistaken impression that they were "terrorists" - Saddamite or al-Qa'ida, depending on their faith in President George Bush - and then, once their bullets had smashed into the hospital, come under attack from the Jordanian guards on the roof? In any other land the Americans would surely have acknowledged some of the truth. But all they would speak of yesterday were their own casualties. Two US soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a raid in the neighbouring town of Ramadi when the occupants of a house fired back at them. It gave the impression, of course, that American lives were infinetly more valuable than Iraqi lives. And had the brains and teeth beside the road outside Fallujah been American brains and teeth, of course, they would have been removed. There were other things beside the highway yesterday. A torn, blood-stained fragment of an American-supplied Iraqi policeman's shirt, a primitive tourniquet and medical gauze and lots and lots of dried, blackened blood. The 3rd Infantry Division are tired, so the story goes here. They invaded Iraq in March and haven't been home since. Their morale is low. Or so they say in Fallujah and Baghdad. But already the cancer of rumour is beginning to turn this massacre into something far more dangerous. Here are the words of Ahmed, whose brother Sabah was a policeman caught in the ambush and taken away by the Americans - alive or dead, he dosen't know - and who turned up to examine the blood and cartridge cases yesterday. "The Americans were forced to leave Fallujah after much fighting following their killing of 16 demonstrators in April. They were forced to hire a Fallujah police force. But they wanted to return to Fallujah so they arranged the ambush. The BMW 'gunmen' who were supposed to show there was no security in Fallujah - so the Americans could return. Our police kept crying out: 'We are the police - we are the police'. And the Americans went on shooting." In vain did I try to explain that the last thing the Americans wanted to do was to return to the Sunni Muslim Saddamite town of Fallujah. Already they have paid "blood money" to the families of local, innocent Iraqis shot down at their checkpoints. They will have to do the same to the tribal leader whose two sons they also killed at another checkpoint near Fallujah on Thursday night. But why did the Americans kill so many of their own Iraqi policemen? Had they not heard the radio appeals of the dying men? Why - and here the story of the Jordanian Hospital guard's and the policemen's relatives were the same - did the Americans go on shooting for an hour and a half? And why did the Americans say that they had "no information" about the slaughter 18 hours after they had gunned down 10 of the very men whom President Bush needs most if he wishes to extricate his army from the Iraqi death trap? http://www.jordantimes.com/Sun/news/news7.htm * US, SHIITES SAY ARMS CRISIS AVERTED Jordan Times, 14th September NAJAF, Iraq (AFP) US commmanders and Shiite Muslim leaders in this volatile holy city reported success Saturday in averting a showdown betweenIraqi militias and the occupying forces determined to disarm them. A US Marine officer said the streets of Najaf were "back to normal" after a US ultimatum to the miltias, while a senior Shiite leader expressed optimism that a deal was at hand over the shape of an authorised protection force. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Woodbridge of the US Marines 1st Batallion, 7th Regiment, said only a "handful of incidents" involving unauthorised arms occurred around weekly prayers here Friday. The situation was in stark contrast to the week before, when heavy contingents of armed militiamen took to the streets for the first Friday prayers since a massive car bombing that killed 83 people on Aug. 29. The Marines had delivered an ultimatum this week to the militia to keep their weapons off the streets or face seizure. Woodbridge told AFP on Saturday they were satisfied with the result. "Given the cooperation we are getting from the Najaf population, we are back to normal. We don't see a large number of armed people," he said, adding that a few armed individuals were spotted, but there was no organised presence. Woodbridge said 14 weapons were confiscated on Friday in the city 160 kilometres south of Baghad. Only one person had refused to cooperate and he was arrested. He insisted that US troops wanted to avoid a confrontation by barging in on private homes. "The important thing is to take the weapons off the streets," the colonel said. US officers had announced their intention to crack down on armed Iraqi militia, which were banned in June by the coalition that ousted Saddam Hussein two months earlier. Supporters of firebrand anti-US cleric Moqtada Sadr, who has been recruiting soldiers for his Mehdi Army militia, had threatened to defy the Americans, triggering a round of talks in search of a compromise. A senior Shiite leader said here Saturday a deal appeared close on how to deal with the arms issue in a city still rattled by the bombing that targetted Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Al Hakim. "We have almost reached a solution, but not a definitive solution," said Sheikh Sadreddin Kubbanji, head of the Najaf office of Hakim's Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "You have seen yesterday (Friday) that people from the different security services were working together without any problems," he told a news conference in Najaf. "SCIRI has already begun to coordinate with the civil authorities in Najaf and also with the occupation forces," Kubbanji said. A plan under discussion would limit the number of armed men authorised to perform security duties in Najaf, protecting religious shrines and top Shiite clerics. The plan envisages putting together a 2,000-strong force whose members would include policemen as well as the 400-member unit already protecting the Imam Ali shrine where the bombing occurred, local sources said. * IRAQI MUNITIONS SITES REMAIN VULNERABLE RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 38, 15 September 2003 U.S. officials have said that some 50 munitions sites remain vulnerable to looting due to poor security, nytimes.com reported on 6 September. The sites house explosives similar to those used in the recent bombings of the Jordanian embassy and the UN headquarters in Iraq. An unnamed senior defense official told the daily that the quick collapse of the Iraqi military during the war had left ammunition dumps unguarded for many days and, in many cases, some sites were almost completely emptied by fleeing Iraqi soldiers and officers. "That's where a lot of the stuff has come from," the defense official said, referring to the rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, and explosives used in attacks on coalition forces, Iraqis, and international organizations in Iraq. An unnamed U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) official told nytimes.com that the U.S. did not have enough troops to heavily guard all of the 2,700 Iraqi munitions sites in Iraq. But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that, "All known Iraqi munitions sites are being secured." However, the CENTCOM official said that some sites containing bombs and missiles have been left with little security or are guarded by Iraqi guards alone, as U.S. soldiers provide stronger security on sites housing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons. An FBI official confirmed on 4 September that chemicals tests revealed that similar munitions were used in the 7 August bombing of the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad and the UN headquarters there on 19 August. Officials cautioned, however that it would be difficult to trace the source of explosives used in the bombings to specific sites in Iraq. UN weapons inspectors visited a number of sites housing munitions belonging to the former regime of Saddam Hussein during their nearly five months of inspections that ended in March. Details of those inspections are available on the "RFE/RL Tracking Inspections" web page (http://www.rferl.org/specials/iraq-inspec/). (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=97682 * NEW IRAQI ARMY IS BORN IN DESERT Gulf News, from Reuters, Kirkush, Iraq Kirkush, Iraq: The first recruits to the fledgling New Iraqi Army showed off their fighting skills yesterday at a desert camp where the US-led occupiers hope to turn out 35,000 soldiers in a year. An initial batch of 750 soldiers at the Kirkush camp, near the Iranian border northeast of Baghdad, included ex-members of Saddam Hussain's disbanded army and Kurdish Peshmerga rebels who until five months ago had been fighting one another. "That was Saddam's fault," said Abubaker Mohammad, who fought for 11 years with the Peshmerga. "Now we are one family, Arabs and Kurds together, working for a new army, a new Iraq." Saddam's vast army, thought to number as many as 400,000, collapsed in the weeks after the US-led invasion of Iraq in March. Some fought and died, most turned and fled. Washington decided to disband the army and hired a US company, Vinnell, to train a new force from scratch. The first battalion of 750 in the New Iraqi Army is near to finishing an eight-week initial training course at Kirkush. Risking retribution from anti-US Iraqi guerrillas who often target "collaborators", 3,000 more would-be soldiers have signed up at three recruitment centres in Baghdad, Basra in the south, and Mosul in the north, American military officers said. "I am not scared. Saddam's people are gone and they will never come back. We in the new army will make sure of that," said recruit Saman Talabani, clasping a gun to his chest. Senior officers from Saddam's army are excluded from the new army, but two-thirds of the recruits are former soldiers. "By this time next year I want 35,000 men in 27 infantry battalions," US Major-General Paul Eaton, the top commander overseeing the new army's formation, told Reuters. "That would be a great start, then it will be up to the new Iraqi government to see how it wants to build on that. Saddam's army was far greater than a country of this size should need." All the new recruits will come through Kirkush, a large half-built garrison for the old army set in arid, sandy plains that are good for training but tough to live in. Once a full division is ready next year, it will be attached first to the American Fourth Infantry Division, based in Saddam's hometown Tikrit, and given limited responsibilities like border patrols and guarding bases. Yesterday, the new recruits, due to graduate in October, were on their best behaviour for a mini-army of journalists flown in by helicopter to watch them train and take classes. One unit cracked off AK-47 assault rifles on a firing range, while another simulated combat over mounds of sand. In the classroom, a group of about 100 were being taught about fitness, health and hygiene. "Don't forget to clean your teeth, that's very important," the American instructor barked. Commanders say most recruits know how to fight but need to be taught about human rights and democracy. "We show them the philosophy we use in a free society, that armies exist to serve their own people," Lieutenant-Colonel Ray Combs said. But not all is hunky-dory in the New Iraqi Army. Away from the commanders, some of the $70-a-month recruits and trainers told of indiscipline and desertion at Kirkush. Of an initial 1,000, 250 have given up and gone home, they said. Arab-Kurd squabbling was common. "I was in a riot the other day," one trainer said. "I dragged a guy into my office who wouldn't shut up, and all his friends came chasing after me. I was terrified," he added. http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Articles.asp?Article=61717&Sn=WORL * FALLUJAH POLICE CHIEF SHOT DEAD Gulf Daily News (The Voice of Bahrain), 16th September FALLUJAH, Iraq: In a region already shaken by the mistaken killing of eight Iraqi policemen by US forces in the worst friendly fire incident since major fighting ended, the police chief of this city was shot dead yesterday in an ambush by three gunmen. In central Baghdad, a 1st Armoured Division soldier died of his wounds in a military field hospital after a predawn rocket-propelled attack on his patrol, the second US casualty in as many days. Specialist Anthony Reinoso said the soldier from the 1st Armoured Division was fatally wounded in the attack at 1:10am. "He was evacuated to the 28th Combat Support Hospital and subsequently died," Reinoso said. He added that the name of the soldier had been withheld pending notification of his family. He was the 156th to die in Iraq since US President George W Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1. West of Baghdad, Col Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, police chief in Al Khaldiya, was attacked on the outskirts of the volatile western city of Fallujah as he was driving home. His driver and bodyguard were wounded in the attack, police said. Ali, a former Iraqi army officer, had been police chief for two months. He took over the Al Khaldiya force as US troops were pulled out of the town in conjunction with a general pullback from the region's population centres and the flanking cities of Fallujah and Ramadi where American forces had come under almost daily attacks since they fell to the coalition in April. Meanwhile, a member of Iraq's Governing Council yesterday accused US troops of regularly mistreating Iraqi civilians so that the population had come to regard American forces as an army of occupation. "There is widespread discontent with the coalition forces, the majority of whom treat the Iraqi people with violence and contempt," Rajaa Habib Khuzai told a joint news conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio. [.....] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6774-2003Sep13.html * IRAQ'S SECURITY WEAKENED BY FEAR by Anthony Shadid Washington Post, 14th September KHALDIYA, Iraq, Sept. 13 -- The convoy of U.S. military engineers had just entered this rough-and-tumble town when disaster struck. They had a flat tire, stopping the convoy along a ribbon of desert asphalt some Iraqis have nicknamed "the highway of death." Soon after, masked guerrillas fired two rocket-propelled grenades. Machine guns crackled across the late afternoon sky. When it ended an hour later, witnesses said, homes were gouged with large holes, two U.S. vehicles were burning, and the soldiers had beat a retreat. On the sidelines throughout the clash Thursday were Khaldiya's police, who are supposed to be the allies of the U.S.-led occupation in restoring order to Iraq. Not only was it not their fight, several said this week, but the guerrillas fighting U.S. soldiers had their blessing. "In my heart, deep inside, we are with them against the occupation," said Lt. Ahmed Khalaf Hamed, an officer with the 100-man force trained, equipped and financed by U.S. authorities. "This is my country, and I encourage them." >From President Bush to U.S. soldiers in the field, the United States is putting a growing emphasis on transferring the purview of security and stability to tens of thousands of Iraqis now under arms. The bulk of them -- more than 30,000 -- are police. The restive town of Khaldiya offers a small but significant example of the challenges this policy faces in a country shaken by car bombings and rampant lawlessness and filled with anxiety about the future. While this town of 15,000 residents may not be typical of all Iraq, it reflects some of the fissures and strains that are undermining security across the country. A key to that tension is the relationship between U.S. forces and police, shaken badly on Friday in Fallujah, when American soldiers mistakenly killed 10 Iraqi security officers who were chasing suspected criminals along a desert road. By their own account, Khaldiya's finest are a besieged and embittered force -- uneasy about their American patrons, despised by their community and demoralized about their work. At least three have quit, and others contend the safest place for them is at home. They have become targets of tribal vendettas and blood feuds for arresting or wounding suspects, and in an hour-long standoff outside their police station this week, they had to face down an angry and better-armed mob. Most troublesome, some said, are accusations of serving as America's lackeys and spies, charges that were once whispered and now declared loudly in this town that hugs the Euphrates River. The officers contended that residents have it all wrong. When asked whether the resistance would succeed in the Sunni Muslim city, part of an arc of territory where former president Saddam Hussein's government drew most of its support, Thaer Abdullah Saleh was blunt. "God willing," the 27-year-old officer said. The other officers in the room hesitated, then nodded their heads in agreement. "It's our right," said Dhiaa Din Rajoub, a 38-year-old colleague sitting on a tattered mattress. "This is our country, this is an occupation, and we don't accept it." For six weeks, this farming city on a sun-baked plain 45 miles west of Baghdad has emerged as one of the rare locales in Iraq where attacks on U.S. forces and the support the attackers appear to enjoy resemble a guerrilla war in the fullest sense of the term. On Aug. 4, after U.S. forces in the city came under fire, crowds attacked the mayor's office, where they believed U.S. troops were meeting informers behind closed doors. In the ensuing chaos after the Americans withdrew, a throng threw rocks at the police chief's pickup, then burned it. Others threw grenades into the newly painted and furnished mayor's office before ransacking it. They tore doors and windows from their frames, made off with furniture, carpets and floor tiles, and hauled away a sink. Since then, residents say, U.S. forces have rarely ventured into the city, except to travel the road that traverses a turbulent 30-mile stretch from Fallujah, 32 miles west of Baghdad, to Ramadi. Khudheir Mikhlif Ali, who replaced the former police chief, meets his U.S. counterparts at the base outside town, police said. For their three-day training, police go there rather than have American soldiers come to them. "Everybody's upset at the Americans here," said Capt. Khalil Daham, a gaunt and weary 31-year-old officer, with 12 years on the job. He was jumpy on this day. When a car blows a tire on the street outside, he said, residents think the police station has come under attack from angry residents. Outside his window sits the charred frame of the police chief's pickup, propped on its axle on a pile of sand. If he had the money, he declared, he would quit. "We're sitting here," Daham said, pointing to the window behind him, "and I expect someone to shoot us any minute." "It's chaos," added Rajoub. Their complaints are similar to those heard from police across Iraq. They now have uniforms, but they still lack communications gear. For a force of 100, they said, they have three cars and two motorcycles. Their station is a shell of the intimidating, even terrifying, post it was in Hussein's days. Looted soon after the fall of his government in April, the office lacks many of its windows and doors and a borrowed light bulb illuminates the hallway. Wires ripped from the wall left scars next to a slogan in Arabic that reads, "Police in the service of the people." A lone telephone sits at the entrance on a tattered iron cot. "It doesn't work," said Mahmoud Ismail, a 35-year-old perched on the bed with an AK-47 assault rifle at his side. The isolation of the police in Khaldiya is intense, given the hostility toward U.S. forces and anger at the very idea of occupation in a community that remains fiercely conservative and bound by tribal traditions. In interviews today, several residents asserted that the police should be fighting with the guerrillas and against the Americans. A U.S. military spokesman in neighboring Ramadi, Capt. Michael Calvert, contended that the police should arrest guerrillas or at least notify U.S. forces about their activities, as a first step toward assuming complete control for security. "We are scapegoats here," Rajoub said. "How do we satisfy the tribes? How do we satisfy the Americans?" He shook his head. "We're sitting here between two fires," he said. Rajoub and others said they have heard insults from residents dozens of times in the streets, when they're willing to go outside. They've been called collaborators, lackeys and spies. While not accused of corruption as the police are in Baghdad, the police here have their credibility questioned, and even worse, they are accused of betraying their countrymen and fellow Muslims. "The people tell us we're selling our country for dollars," Saleh said. "Even our families call us collaborators." In the aftermath of Thursday's attack against the U.S. troops, crowds in the streets celebrated, shooting AK-47 assault rifles into the air, witnesses said. To some, it was a victory of sorts. No Iraqis were killed, and the Americans left behind the burning wrecks of two trucks when they withdrew. Youths chanted, "The Army of Muhammad will return" and "I swear on the Koran the Americans must leave." The next day, youths blocked the road with parts of charred trucks. They stopped vehicles, forcing drivers to kiss an Iraqi flag. Two carried iron bars, and one had blackened his face with ash from the trucks. At a nearby barber shop, men warned that police should not do anything to stop them. On the window was a leaflet bearing the portrait of a bearded Adnan Fahdawi, who it said was a "martyr," killed in an attack on the Americans on July 15. "If the policemen work with the Americans, we consider them enemies," said Hakim Talib, 24, a barber. His customer, 27-year-old Mehdi Saleh, interrupted him. "We would attack them just as we attack the Americans," he said. Grim and resigned, the police officers said they have taken the message to heart. "When there's a bombing, an attack or a shooting, we do nothing," Daham said. "We just watch." Some contended they tacitly supported the guerrillas. Like the fighters, they reject the occupation, and some expressed nostalgia for Hussein's rule, when the police were respected and often feared, when residents offered them rides and no one dared stare too long at them. Other officers said if they try to arrest someone with weapons, the suspect will frequently contend the arms are for use against the Americans. They call themselves mujaheddin, a religiously resonant term for a fighter that police say they cannot contest. "They claim they are fighting the Americans. If I capture him, he says you're a spy, you're working for the Americans," Saleh said. "The next morning you wouldn't find any of us. We'll all be slaughtered." "We're afraid of them," he added. "I swear to God, we're afraid of them." On Monday night, after police seized two Eastern European-made trucks that were unlicensed, about 12 people showed up at the police station in a pickup, a sedan and an orange-and-white taxi. The men had red-and-white kaffiyehs wrapped around their faces and carried rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, police said. They demanded the trucks back. "They told us to leave or we'll shoot you," recalled Ammar Ibrahim Hammadi, a 22-year-old officer who stood with the other police on the roof that night. "We said, 'We're not leaving. Either we'll kill you or you'll kill us.' " The masked men left, returned again a half-hour later, then left for good, he said. "They probably would have won," Hammadi said. "They have RPGs, and we ha ve Kalashnikovs, and we don't even know if they'll work." He lifted his rifle, a gesture at once flippant and discouraged. "This is nothing," he said. U.S. officials have acknowledged what they call setbacks in Khaldiya and have noted an increase in attacks against U.S. forces in the area. Calvert, the U.S. military spokesman, said the changes in the police force would come over the long term and that the institution itself still suffers from being on one of the lowest rungs of Hussein's chain of security services, where internal intelligence and informers enforced the suffocating fear that translated into order. "We're not going to see an enormous change overnight. It's a building process, like a lot of things in this country," Calvert said. But, he added, "we're seeing that they're starting to act more like what we consider police officers." The lack of respect is what police officers say bedevils their work. On Friday, Mohammed Thamer came into Daham's office. An owner of an ice cream store, he wanted to file a complaint over damage to his house in Thursday's clash. His windows were broken, and bullet holes zigzagged across his kitchen wall. "I have no authority," Daham said, shaking his head. "What do you want from me?" Compensation from the Americans, the 32-year-old Thamer answered. Daham told him to come back the next day. "What can I tell them?" Daham said after he left. "I have nothing to say. All they can do is ask for God's help." http://www.nydailynews.com/news/wn_report/story/117885p-106281c.html * IRAQI COP CHIEF AMBUSHED by THOMAS M. DeFRANK New York Daily News, 16th September WASHINGTON - An American-backed police chief was gunned down yesterday west of Baghdad, the latest victim of a string of political assassinations meant to deter Iraqis from helping U.S. military occupiers restore order. A G.I. from the 1st Armored Division also died yesterday after his patrol was hit by a pre dawn rocket-propelled grenade attack in central Baghdad. He was the 156th American soldier to die since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1. Col. Khedeir Mekhalef Ali, a former officer in the disbanded Iraqi Army, was attacked in Khaldiya by three masked assailants wearing red-and-white headdresses. The ambushers shot out one of his police car's tires with machine-gun fire, then surrounded the vehicle and shot the chief at least 25 times, according to the driver, who survived. Khaldiya is in the so-called Sunni Triangle, the area of central Iraq where support for deposed dictator Saddam Hussein remains strongest and where nearly all the attacks against U.S. forces have occurred. Ali had been the town's police chief since July, when the U.S. military pulled out and turned over security for the area to Iraqis. U.S. civilian authorities are accelerating the return of local security functions to Iraqis, but such officials are seen as collaborators and frequently targeted by pro-Saddam sympathizers in an attempt to undermine U.S. efforts to stabilize the war-torn country. "We are not in the police to serve the Americans, but to protect our community," said Abdel Salam Elaiwah, a Khaldiya policeman. [.....] http://www.arabnews.com/?page=4§ion=0&article=32081&d=17&m=9&y=2003&pix= world.jpg&category=World%22 * US REVEALS 4,000 EXTRA 'SECURITY DETAINEES' IN IRAQ Arab News (Saudi Arabia), 17th September ABU GHARIB, Iraq, 17 September 2003 US officials said yesterday they were holding 10,000 prisoners in Iraq, double the number previously reported, and count among the security cases six inmates claiming to be Americans and two who say they are British. "They didn't fit into any category," said Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski of the 3,800 extra people who have now been classified as "security detainees." "We got an order from the Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) to categorize them" about a month ago, she said, but gave few details about who these detainees were. "We were securing them. We didn't want people to be confused" about their status, she said. They were being held in the area of north-central Iraq controlled by the US Army's 4th Infantry Division, said Karpinski, speaking at Abu Gharib prison, 20 kilometers west of Baghdad. Asked if they had any rights or had access to their families or legal help while they were being "secured", she said: "It's not that they don't have rights ... they have fewer rights than EPWs (enemy prisoners of war)." But she added that "they didn't ask for" any such privileges. Karpinski said the categorizing of the 3,800 prisoners had been mentioned by US officials in press interviews but "had not been reported." "We have the opportunity to interview them now," she said, explaining that this could not be done before because they had not been categorized. Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade now in charge of Iraq's prisons and detention centers, defined security detainees as "those who have attacked coalition forces" or were suspected of involvement in or planning of such attacks. There were previously some 600 people classified as security detainees, so that category now numbers about 4,400, said Karpinski. There are 300 enemy prisoners of war, and about 5,300 criminals or suspected criminals in detention, making a rough total of 10,000, she added. Karpinski said that "several hundred third-country nationals" were among the prisoners held on security grounds since Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown in April by US and British forces. The vast majority of these detainees were captured during the war, she said, while only a "negligible" number had been detained since major combat operations were declared over on May 1. "Six are claiming to be Americans and two are claiming to be from the UK," she said, as coalition military police held "Abu Gharib Media Day" at the prison. Investigators were seeking to determine whether the claims of US or British nationality were correct. "We are continuing the interviews," she said. The six "had accents that suggested they were Americans, but when you talked to them their stories started falling apart," said Karpinski. [.....] http://www.iraqgroup.net/ * U.S. FORCES ARREST SHOEMAKERS FEARING THEY TURN GLUE INTO BOMBS by Bassel Mohamad Al-Hayat, 12th September Baghdad: The millions of Iraqis who are accusing the former regime of violating their rights are today confronting the U.S. forces on the very same issue. Karima Ali, a member of the board of administration for the Human Rights organization in Iraq, said that 150 Iraqi families have called the international community to intervene in helping them know the fate of their children, who were arrested by the occupation forces in Baghdad last August. She added that these civilians had been arrested in surprise raid operations in secure houses in the neighborhoods of Dorah, Palestine Street, Al Amiriya and Al Adel. Ali added that the latest statistics registered 260 cases of human rights violations committed by the American occupation forces in less than a month, ranging from opening random fire on civilians, raid operations at night, abducting people to unknown locations and forbidding the parents from visiting their arrested children. She added that the officials at the Human Rights Ministry promised to address the file of the civilians arrested in the American occupation's prisons. She explained that despite all the contacts she has been making with the Red Cross in Baghdad, Amnesty International, as well as human rights organizations in Canada, France and Britain, the U.S. military administration has not responded to the international calls to give information on the fate of the arrested people. The organization's sources maintain that their contacts with the U.S. military leaders have failed to yield accurate information on the arrested civilians, even though the group did offer the information it had, including the names and numbers, to the human rights official at the U.S. administration in Baghdad. An official at the organization said that among the people arrested, there are dozens of workers in shoemaking factories in Baghdad who were arrested because the Americans believe that the glue used in the shoe industry might be used to fabricate bombs. Al-Hayat was informed that some of the families of the arrested have called upon representatives of Iraqi political parties to act as mediators with the Americans. A leading official from the Kurdistan Democratic Party said that the contacts with the Americans regarding this issue haven't yielded any noticeable results, indicating that some of the arrested people are members of "well known parties." IRAQI RESISTANCE * ANSAR AL-ISLAM SAYS IT IS REGROUPING, CALLS FOR FATWA AGAINST U.S. RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT, Vol. 6, No. 38, 15 September 2003 The terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam has reportedly issued a 4 September statement noting the group's reorganization and agenda, "Jamawar" reported on 8 September. According to the statement, the group is not headed by Abu Abdallah al-Shafi'i. The group claims that its members were scattered due to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and that it needed several months to relocate the family members of Ansar fighters, to treat their wounded, and to regroup after hiding in the mountains. The statement also noted that Ansar's focus has changed -- the group intends to launch its "activities" not just in northern Iraq, but in all areas of the country. The statement also called on Iraqi religious leaders to issue a fatwa against U.S. forces and those who collaborate with the coalition. Meanwhile, U.S. and Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue to arrest Ansar militants in northern Iraq. Cairo's MENA reported on 6 September that a "wide-scale" campaign launched a day earlier resulted in the arrest of 16 Ansar fighters. The campaign was reportedly launched two days after it was discovered that a bridge in Kirkuk was booby trapped with some 1,200 kilograms of explosives, MENA reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/6763724.htm * IRAQI FIGHTERS REJECT LABEL OF TERRORIST by HANNAH ALLAM Knight Ridder Newspapers, 14th September BAQUBA, Iraq - A mournful voice singing of dreary days and disappointing harvests drifted across a canal and onto the hidden grounds where Abu Abdullah teaches his recruits to kill. Faded Iraqi army uniforms dried on pomegranate trees, and combat boots lined a dirt path leading into the camp. Young Iraqis picked ripe grapes and offered them to visitors. And waited for orders to attack another American convoy. >From this farm hidden among tangled grapevines and tall date palms an hour north of Baghdad, guerrilla fighters, both Iraqis and foreigners, have set out on some of the raids that have killed 70 U.S. soldiers in the past four months. The farmer's song is a code from a lookout, to assure commanders that passing boaters can't see the band of guerrillas preparing for their next attack on American soldiers. The men here, armed with grenades and rifles, seem a ludicrous match for U.S. forces, whose superior weaponry is evident at every checkpoint in the country. But two leaders of guerrilla cells told a Knight Ridder reporter and photographer in separate interviews that they would fight until the last vestige of the American presence in Iraq is gone. Their fate, one said, is "victory or martyrdom." The interviews, conducted nine days apart in late August and early September, were the most extensive to date granted by the fighters who are killing Americans, and the visit to the camp was the first by journalists covering the war here. The first interview, with an Iraqi who identified himself as Abu Mohammed, took place in an abandoned building in Mansour, Baghdad's most exclusive neighborhood. The second, with a Jordanian who called himself Abu Abdullah, was at the encampment near Baquba. The two cell leaders said their fighters primarily were former Iraqi army officers and young Iraqis who had joined because they were angry over the deaths or arrests of family members during U.S. raids in the hunt for Saddam Hussein and his supporters. The group also shelters remnants of a non-Iraqi Arab unit of Saddam's elite Fedayeen militia force as well as foreigners who slipped across the country's long and porous borders to battle American troops, they said. Abu Abdullah, who directs the camp near Baquba, said he came to Iraq shortly before the United States invaded it last spring. The anti-American forces appear to be more organized than some U.S. intelligence and military officials thought. Cells receive orders and intelligence from Diyala, which lies within the northern "Sunni Triangle" of danger. According to the fighters, the Diyala leadership oversees about 100 guerrillas, including an all-women's unit, and is backed by private donations as well as Syrian funding, according to the two cell leaders. Both said they had been told by superiors not to contact members of other cells for fear of infiltrators. Abu Mohammed seemed confident that Saddam is directing at least some of the activity. He said he'd heard that leaders many levels above him had met recently with the fallen Iraqi leader. Still, he said, the dictator has no chance of returning to power because of the shame of losing Baghdad and because of relatives who turned in his sons and other key figures for rewards. "We love Saddam Hussein for one thing - he has a big mind," Abu Mohammed said. "He knows how to think and how to plan. He made our hearts as strong as steel." Knight Ridder sought the interviews through Iraqi acquaintances, who spent weeks contacting other acquaintances, searching for someone with inroads to the group. The interviews themselves were arranged through an intermediary, who accompanied a Knight Ridder reporter and photographer to both, but disappeared without explanation the day an aborted third meeting was to have taken place in a new location. In neither instance did the fighters attempt to prevent the journalists, an accompanying translator or their driver from seeing the route along which they were taken. But during the trip to the camp, the journalists' satellite telephones were confiscated and turned off, out of concern, the intermediary said, that U.S. forces would trace the phones' signals to pinpoint the camp's location. Both cell leaders said they were willing to talk because they didn't want the story of what was going on in Iraq to be told only from the American military's standpoint. Abu Abdullah said he wanted to tell people he didn't consider himself a terrorist, but the enemy of "U.S. imperialism." American officials have said they know little of the exact makeup of the Iraqi fighters. They have linked the guerrillas both to Saddam's Baath Party and to foreigners linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network. The cell leaders themselves said they were guided by a blend of Islamist teachings and pan Arab nationalism. Both spoke disdainfully of "Wahabbis," as hard-line Sunni Muslim followers are called. Abu Mohammed said there was no contact with members of al Qaida at his level; Abu Abdullah broke off the interview before the question could be asked. But he said his fighters were too valuable to participate in suicide missions, a hallmark of al Qaida, and he rejected the label of terrorist. "Can you describe a man who defends his country as a terrorist?" asked Abu Abdullah, who said he was 31. "Iraq is the land of prophets and the birthplace of civilization. We will fight until we shed the last drop of our blood for this country." It is impossible to verify the claims of the two men. But Abu Mohammed described two fatal ambushes of U.S. convoys that matched times, dates and locations of recent incidents recorded in American military accounts. And an explosion nearby lent credibility to Abu Abdullah's claims after he hurriedly broke off an interview, saying his men had been ordered to ambush a U.S. convoy that had moved within range. A security report by international agencies later listed an attack on U.S. troops at about the same time and place as the explosion. One American soldier was reported injured. Abu Mohammed, who said he was 19, called the American victory in April a humiliating defeat for his family, which has roots in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and includes several officers in the former army. A friend of Abu Mohammed's said the young man had an uncle among the U.S.-led coalition's 55 most-wanted figures from the former regime, though he declined to divulge the uncle's name or whether he is still missing. Family connections to the Baath Party brought raids and arrests of several relatives, Abu Mohammed said. In June, a cousin confided that he had joined the anti-American forces. Abu Mohammed said he accepted his cousin's invitation to watch an attack and was seduced instantly by the thrill of revenge. Nearly three months later, his loyalty and family reputation had earned him a position as the leader of a 20-member cell that scouts the highways in and around Baghdad for passing American convoys, which he said made easy targets for rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs. Superiors sent Abu Mohammed to meet with Knight Ridder one evening in late August to provide basic information on the Diyala umbrella group and to vet the journalists before a second meeting. A middleman named Ahmed accompanied a reporter and photographer to the Mansour building. Ahmed paid a child standing outside a handful of Iraqi dinars, presumably to act as a lookout during the hour-long interview. Ahmed then led the way to a dim, first-floor office where Abu Mohammed sat behind a desk, wearing a tightly wrapped head scarf that revealed only his eyes. His thin frame slumped under the weight of a Kalashnikov and a military-style vest packed with hand grenades and ammunition. His hands shook, and he explained that he was nervous because U.S. raids were growing closer to the Diyala leadership. Raids in recent weeks had resulted in the arrest of one member, he said, and two others had narrowly escaped capture. Fear of informants restricts recruiting to family members, close neighborhood friends and military buddies, he said. "We are Islamist in that we are protecting our religion. We are nationalist in that we are protecting our country," Abu Mohammed said. "We don't care about our lives. We care about the lives of our fellow Iraqis." Abu Mohammed's cell relies on the Baghdad branch for information on convoy routes, checkpoints with the least security and areas with high American soldier traffic. Baghdad leaders arrange each attack and sometimes send members afterward to stand at the scene posing as onlookers to count casualties. A report then goes to the Diyala leaders, Abu Mohammed said. One attack, he said, was scrapped at the last minute because a van carrying an Iraqi family pulled next to the targeted convoy and could have been hit by mistake. Typically, however, most attacks are carried out, and Iraqis who happen to be around are "sacrificed," he said. The day before an Aug. 12 attack near Taji, home to a U.S. military base just north of Baghdad, Abu Mohammed said, he and six other men scouted the area, plotting the operation and mapping the quickest escape routes. They planned to have two men on an overpass fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and other weapons. Two others, one at each end of the overpass, would serve as lookouts, another as the getaway driver and two more would guard alternate escape routes farther from the scene. Abu Mohammed said he was one of the latter two. The day of the attack, one member recited protective verses from the Quran and the others repeated each line in unison. They drove to the site, took their positions and waited for the convoy, which the Baghdad cell told them would be carrying an important American military figure. At about 6 p.m., Abu Mohammed said, they fired on the convoy and escaped as planned. "I don't know how many were injured," he said. "I saw two soldiers who looked dead." On Aug. 13, the U.S. military announced that one 4th Infantry Division soldier had been killed and two others had been wounded around 6:15 p.m. the previous day when their convoy was attacked "in the vicinity of al Taji." Though the records match Abu Mohammed's account, there's no way to guarantee that the attack was the one he described. Even if the U.S.-led military coalition leaves Iraq, Abu Mohammed said, his group will turn to the U.S.-appointed Governing Council as a new target. The men harbor particular disdain for Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial Iraqi exile who helped spur the war with information he gave to key players in the Bush administration and to American newspaper reporters. Abu Mohammed said no exile would be safe as president; his group would accept only an Iraqi leader who "suffered like us, who was with the people" during wars and sanctions. "I promise you," he said. "The first day Chalabi is president, we will bomb his house no matter who is inside." Nine days passed before Knight Ridder was offered a second meeting, this time with a higher-ranking cell leader. The middleman from the first meeting and an unidentified member of the Baghdad cell took the same reporter and photographer down a maze of country roads an hour north of Baghdad. At one point, the car traveled directly behind an American convoy, stirring laughter and shrugs from the middleman and the Baghdad cell member. The car stopped outside a remote, overgrown farm surrounded by a high wall. The group entered through a padlocked side door and the men warned of snakes as they walked down a dirt path strewn with military boots, charred metal parts and tubs of freshly picked dates from the tall palm trees that cast shadows over the campgrounds. Stockpiles of canned food could be seen from the path. At the end of the trail, a narrow canal sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. The escort from the Baghdad cell said the camp gave him a feeling of "brotherhood," with members swimming together in the canal or racing to pick the ripest grapes. The man, who looked to be in his early 30s, offered the visitors seats on a neglected patio about 20 feet from the banks of the canal. After a 20-minute wait, noise from the path signaled the arrival of Abu Abdullah and three other men, one of whom sported a Saddam Fedayeen logo - a winged heart - tattooed on his hand. Abu Abdullah, who wore track pants and a T-shirt, had covered his face with a black-and-white scarf, though the other men weren't disguised. He said he left Jordan for Iraq just before the war, when volunteers from neighboring Arab countries lined up at the borders to show their willingness to help Iraqi soldiers. He was drawn not by religious beliefs, he said, but by fear that war in Iraq would lead to Western rule of the Middle East. He said he since had met like-minded Syrians, Egyptians and Afghans from other cells. "I saw what the Zionists did to Palestine, how they destroyed Palestinian homes," he said. "I told myself I could never let this happen to another Arab country. The Americans are only coming to occupy Iraq, to drain this land of its natural resources." At the camp, he continued, he trains recruits to operate heavy weapons and small arms such as machine guns and hand grenades. He said the recruits, who were increasing daily "from inside and outside Iraq," were quick students because most already had military experience. The leader of the anti-American network sometimes visits the camp to encourage new recruits to fight with courage. The men are taught to seek only military targets, and to spare civilian lives when possible. For this reason, he said, he condemns the car bombs that killed dozens of innocents recently at the Jordanian Embassy, the United Nations base in Baghdad and the Imam Ali shrine in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf. Abu Abdullah said he thought U.S. forces orchestrated the Najaf bombing to divide Sunni and Shiite Muslims by assassinating Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al Hakim, the leading Shiite cleric who died in the blast. "Americans want to split us," he said. "Those heretical people want to finish Islam, to kill our religion. But we know Muslims, and in our holy book it says to fight together against those who threaten Islam. So, we will fight." The promised hour-long interview ended after just 15 minutes, when another member whispered something in his ear. Abu Abdullah apologized profusely and excused himself. Information had arrived on a convoy that would be an easy hit as long as the fighters acted immediately, he said. "This is from someone coming to tell us we have a mission now," Abu Abdullah said. "We are ready to go and attack our target." He left, and the visitors were led back to the car by Ahmed and the same escort from Baghdad. On the way back to the main road into Baquba, an explosion so powerful it rattled the car was heard in the distance. The men in the front seat turned to each other and smiled. (Allam reports for the St. Paul Pioneer Press.) The interviews for this story were conducted in clandestine meetings in Baghdad and at a camp in a rural area north of the city. They provide a chilling insight into a shadowy organization responsible for at least some of the attacks that have killed 70 Americans since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1. The story may disturb some readers who will believe that American journalists should not talk with the enemy and that American newspapers should not publish anything they say. But the story provides important information to help the public understand something of the nature of the enemy that U.S. troops are facing. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk