Skip to comments.Baghdad Descends Into Chaos
Posted on 04/11/2003 1:58:13 PM PDT by marshmallow
Baghdad is in the grip of civil disorder as US troops who seized control of the city centre two days ago struggle to contain the violence. As jubilation gave way to lawlessness, fires raged out of control on Friday in government and commercial buildings, while looters raided shops, museums, homes and even hospitals.
Doctors and nurses at the al-Kindi hospital - already ravaged by looters - have taken up arms to protect themselves.
The American forces in Baghdad say they are taking measures to curb the chaos - setting up an operations centre at the Palestine Hotel, in the city centre, and calling on professional people to come forward to help run public services.
But BBC correspondents in the city say the presence of US troops does little to deter the armed mobs. And in any case the military are too thinly-spread, concentrating on guarding government buildings and searching for weapons caches.
Sustained heavy machine-gun fire was heard in the mainly Shia suburb of Saddam City in the north-east, and a US marine position came under fire there.
The scenes in Baghdad have been replicated in the northern city of Mosul, where widespread looting broke out after the Iraqi army abandoned the city to US-backed Kurdish fighters.
Like Kirkuk just 24-hours before, Mosul fell without a fight. But crowds went on a looting rampage, stripping public buildings and schools, and torching a central market.
In other developments:
A senior Kurdish official says Kurdish militia have begun withdrawing from Kirkuk, but the BBC's Dumeetha Luthra says there is little evidence of change on the ground.
The leaders of Russia, France and Germany are meeting in St Petersburg for talks expected to focus on the post-war reconstruction of Iraq
US special forces are involved in fierce fighting with Iraqi forces near the town of Qaim, close to the border with Syria, at a site suspected of harbouring missiles or even weapons of mass destruction.
The US military issues coalition forces with "playing cards" portraying 55 key individuals from the former Iraqi leadership whom it wants to see captured or confirmed dead
The US military says it has bombed the home of a half-brother of Saddam Hussein, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti - a former head of the Iraqi secret police - in Ramadi, about 100 kilometres west of Baghdad
Two Iraqi children are killed and nine other civilians injured after US marines open fire on a vehicle approaching a checkpoint at speed in the southern town of Nasiriya
Medics take up arms
The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is profoundly alarmed by the situation in Baghdad, which it says is verging on anarchy. It has appealed to US-led forces in Iraq to restore order urgently.
The organisation, reminding the US and Britain of their legal responsibility to protect civilians and essential services, says two days of looting has left the city with virtually no functioning hospitals.
The BBC's Caroline Hawley says at one hospital in Saddam City, armed civilian volunteers are stationed outside.
The BBC's Paul Wood, also in Baghdad, says much of what is stolen is of little or no use to those who take it.
From the hospitals vital equipment such as heart monitors and incubators have been stolen and even the laboratories ransacked - centrifuges and microscopes smashed.
As our correspondent viewed the destruction, a gang of more looters arrived, carrying off an assortment of shiny metal instruments and bottles of chemicals.
"They don't even know what it's used for," said the doctor of veterinary medicine who accompanied him.
In this instance the doctor followed the looters to their truck and chastised them, shaming them into returning the equipment - one brave man against a mob - but our correspondent says this is not usually the case.
United Nations aid agencies say the humanitarian situation is worsening and the disorder in Iraq means it is simply not safe for them to send their workers in to help the civilian population.
The country's cultural heritage is under threat too - the AFP news agency says Iraq's largest archaeological museum has been looted, ancient artefacts destroyed and stolen.
The BBC's David Willis in Baghdad says a small minority of the population is carrying out the looting and most residents are hunkered down behind locked doors in fear.
However, he says that the spirit pervading the streets is a sense that "the Iraqi regime had stolen from the people for years and now they are taking it back".
General Jay Garner, the former American general now in charge of overseeing the creation of a new government in Iraq, says his first priority will be to set up a new police force.
Under new rules of conduct issued on Friday by General Tommy Franks, American troops have been forbidden from using deadly force to prevent looting.
In the meantime some Baghdad citizens are taking the law into their own hands - at one hospital which was plundered the BBC's Andrew North said he saw one boy, allegedly a looter, beaten to death in front of him by residents.
--- Don Imus, 3/11/03
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