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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Jordan Times -22 November 2003 (www.jordantimes.com) 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 Friday. "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 suspicion. "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 _______________________________________________ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk