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[casi] Shock and Awe or Eee Awe

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Jordan Times -22 November 2003 (


Baghdad donkey cart drivers squirm under suspicion of wary US military

BAGHDAD (AFP)  A donkey cart driver and passersby look on with amusement as
the tough guys of the US military police search an old cart pulled by a
donkey at a Baghdad petrol station.
"We're checking anything that looks suspicious," says a lieutenant.
Iraq's donkey cart drivers now find themselves on the frontline of suspicion
after insurgents used the traditional vehicles to launch rockets at the
capital's two main foreign media hotels on a major commercial street on
"What happened yesterday has everyone looking at us, especially the police,"
said Ali Mahdi Mohammad, who has driven donkey carts for nine years.
Two carts transporting tanks for heating oil were converted into multiple
rocket launchers to blast the hotels and the oil ministry.
"The attackers used carts because they blend into the traditional Iraqi
scene and don't arouse suspicion," explained Saleh Abdul Hassan, a
blacksmith who makes the carts.
Demand has gone up since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, because,
according to Abdul Hassan, Iraqis are using more and more heating oil to
keep warm as well as cook, given long periods without electricity.
He makes four or five a month using recycled iron. A cart sells for 600,000
dinars ($300). "But once it's been painted and decorated a cart can fetch a
million dinars ($500)," he said.
"Anyone who has that amount of money could have carried out yesterday's
attacks," said his brother Ali.
"Poor people own carts to feed their families. But I can't imagine they
would have done such a thing," Ali added emphatically. "I reckon it was
Saddam's Fedayeen," a former paramilitary force.
"They have the means and the knowledge" to make rocket launchers, added
Abdul Hassan, explaining that with a good blow torch an opening could be cut
into the tank in just 10 minutes to mount the rockets.
"Saddam's people were behind it," said Abu Abbas, who drives a cart and has
12 children.
"Me, I wouldn't sell my cart even for two million dinars, it's my sole
source of income," he said.
The blacksmiths and cart drivers all protested their innocence and insisted
they were ready to cooperate with the police to put an end to any lingering
"The police can search us at every roadblock. We will willingly do that
because we have nothing to hide and it will help put us in the clear," said
Ali Mahdi Mohammad.
"But they better not try to stop us working. They'll have a lot of problems
to deal with if they do," he boasted, surrounded by a dozen other cart
drivers who shouted their agreement.
"There are more than a million cart drivers in Iraq, selling heating oil,
water or vegetable. You can't stop them from working," he said.
"Under Saddam, the authorities tried it once, but failed," said Hassan Idan,
filling up from a heating oil distribution centre on the poor eastern edge
of Baghdad.
"The factory area here was not even recognised by the Baathist regime and is
marked on maps as an industrial zone. The police have never dared step foot
in here and they are not about to start now," Idan smiled.
Sunday, November 23, 2003

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