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Marines, Iraqi Police to Patrol Baghdad

Marines, Iraqi Police to Patrol Baghdad

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(AP) Joining forces in a city of shattered order and ransacked history, U.S. troops and Iraqi police are setting up patrols to rein in waves of thievery in Baghdad. Marines rolled north to confront what could be Saddam Hussein's last holdouts.

A wild firefight outside a Baghdad hotel Saturday and the threat of suicide bombings kept American soldiers wrapped in the urgent business of putting down armed resistance in the capital even as looting spread.

They accepted the surrender of Saddam's Hussein's science adviser, the first top official of the Saddam era taken into custody, among 55 being sought. Lt. Gen. Amer al-Saadi is likely to know about any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but insisted Iraq has none.

Restraining mobs of looters was a rapidly growing priority.

Robbing history itself, thieves pillaged the Iraq National Museum, stealing or destroying artifacts going back 7,000 years -- predating even Babylon. The loss resonated through Baghdad and around the world.

"This is Iraq's civilization," said a tearful museum employee. "And it's all gone now." At Emory University in Atlanta, historian Gordon Newby said: "This is just one of the most tragic things that could happen, for our being able to understand the past."

Iraqis who had warmly welcomed Americans in the capital last week were growing resentful at the persistent disorder, noting the troops often just stood by as people stormed government offices, schools, hospitals and homes.

U.S. officials were dispatching the first contingent of 1,200 American police and judicial officers to help troops put a lid on the lawlessness.

Iraqi police, quickly adapting to the new power order, worked with U.S. Marines to set up joint patrols that would start work in a day or two.

"Anyone who carries a weapon or fires a weapon, we will fire at," Iraqi police Col. Mohammed Zaki said. Marine Staff. Sgt. Jeremy Stafford said of the arrangement: "It's going to happen sooner rather than later."

The looting of the Baghdad bureaucracy raised concerns that any documents tied to Iraqi chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs might disappear along with all the treasures.

Al-Saadi arranged his surrender with the help of Germany's ZDF television network, which filmed him leaving his Baghdad villa with his German wife, Helga, and presenting himself to an American warrant officer, who escorted him away.

Everywhere there were reminders that the climactic taking of Baghdad did not mean the war was over:

--Ninety miles to the north, in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, his loyalists were believed laying in wait, although their will to fight was an open question. A contingent of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, described only as significant in size, headed toward that city to challenge whatever it found.

--To the west, U.S. forces intercepted a busload of 59 men driving toward the Syrian border. They had $630,000 in cash and a letter offering rewards for killing American soldiers.

--In Baghdad, Marines uncovered a cache of about 50 suicide-bomb vests, packed with explosives, in an elementary school. As evening fell, a gun battle broke out by the Palestine Hotel along the Tigris River; the crackle of machine gun fire and explosions were heard as Marines ran from tree to tree.

Measured steps toward stability were taken, too.

In Kirkuk, a vital northern oil city taken from Iraqi regime forces, Kurds, Arabs and ethnic Turks began working on a cooperative arrangement to govern without the ethnic strife threatening to flare in the post-Saddam era.

Kurdish fighters who took over the city said they would yield to the Americans once enough of them arrived to secure law and order.

Looting diminished Saturday in another northern city, Mosul, a day after pro-Saddam defense forces dissolved and U.S. forces moved in. A Mosul hospital reported 10 people had been killed in Arab-Kurdish violence that broke out as control of the city changed hands.

With heavy air strikes subsided, the U.S. Navy said it may soon send two of the three aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf back to their home ports -- the USS Kitty Hawk to Yokosuka, Japan; and the USS Constellation to San Diego.

"We're anxious to get those folks back to their home ports as soon as we can," said Vice Adm. Timothy Keating.

U.S. forces reopened two strategic bridges in the heart of Baghdad, a step that only spurred the looters by giving them access to territory they had been unable to reach.

People carried away bookshelves, sofas and computers from government offices.

The two-story mansion of Tariq Aziz, a familiar face to Westerners as Iraqi deputy prime minister under Saddam, was also pillaged. Thieves stripped light fixtures, appliances, wall sockets, chandeliers, furniture and carpets -- leaving a smattering of books on the floor, including one titled "The Great Iraqi Revolution."

In Cairo, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned civil war could engulf Iraq unless U.S. and British forces did more to restore law and order.

The U.S. Central Command said many Iraqi fighters who were believed to have regrouped in Tikrit may have fled in the face of heavy airstrikes, and the remnants may not muster an effective defense in or around the city.

"We may find that there's not much fight left, but some of the recent operations indicate that there's still some fighting to do even in those areas," said Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy director of operations for the command.

Tikrit has long been a power center for Iraq's Sunni Muslim tribes, who may plan to resist as long as possible out of fear of losing power to the Shiite Muslim majority.

Saddam drew many members of his inner circle from Tikrit, and built several fortified palaces and military installations there.

U.S. officials said Saturday that the first humanitarian flights had arrived at Baghdad's international airport since the American takeover -- two C-130 transport planes with 24,000 pounds of medical supplies from the Kuwaiti government for hospitals in Baghdad.

With the war winding down, protests in the United States and abroad drew smaller crowds and their focus switched from keeping American troops out of Iraq to bringing them home.

In Washington, 10 blocks from an antiwar demonstration that brought together a few thousand people, supporters of the war effort drew thousands to their own rally.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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