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Looting Eases in Baghdad

Looting Eases in Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- With looting already easing in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqis and U.S. troops began jointly patrolling the streets to quell the lawlessness that has engulfed the capital since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, the American military said.

Iraqis started accompanying troops late Sunday or early Monday, said Navy Capt. Frank Thorp, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. In addition, Iraqis have also launched neighborhood watch programs and Iraqi civil leaders are emerging to maintain order, he said.

"We're beginning to see a downward trend in looting," he said.

On Monday morning, several hundred Iraqi police officers in plainclothes and uniform reported to the Iraqi police academy in response to a coalition call for Iraqis to take part in joint patrols to restore order to Baghdad. The officers registered upon entering the academy, as Marine sentries watched.

Thorp would not say who the Iraqis on patrol were or whether any of them were former police officers or Baath Party members. He identified them only as "people who are interested in creating infrastrucutre and hoping for a better Baghdad and better Iraq. As local commanders work in the cities, they're identifying people who want to help."

"But let me stress we still call on Iraqis themselves to protect their city and their country and their future," Thorp said.

Police Lt. Col. Haitham al-Ani said the U.S. troops and the Iraqis would patrol in separate cars and that the Iraqi police would not be allowed to carry guns initially.

Looters have ransacked and burned parts of Baghdad, stealing even priceless archaeological treasures from Iraq's national museum. On Monday, Baghdad's Islamic Library was on fire.

However, the looting appeared to be easing, whether because the best plunder was already gone, or because of new, more wide-ranging Marine patrols, along with checkpoints and vigilante groups thrown together by ordinary Iraqis.

U.S. military patrols were visible in many neighborhoods as the Marines spread out after previously concentrating at key spots. The U.S. troops seemed more mobile, traveling in Humvees and other vehicles.

Government offices and most stores remained closed Monday morning. But residents collected garbage and set it on fire. Many buses were running and were packed with passengers.

In the first stirrings of Baghdad politics, a small number of religious and civil opposition leaders met in the capital Monday to discuss security and restoring electricity and water. The meeting was led by an official of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi.

The small assembly, at the central Palestine Hotel, heard a report from an electricity board representative who said that he expected power to be restored to east Baghdad in three to four days, and to west Baghdad within a week.

On a plaza beyond the hotel entrance, dozens of demonstrators chanted and waved signs protesting the lack of basic services, and especially the collapse of law and order, and demanding the U.S. military leave and let Iraqis run their country.

"I've seen lots of children that are already sick because there's no clean water," said Hassan Handal, 28, a chemical engineering student. "People are having to pull dirty water up from wells in their back yards."

In Saddam City, a poor, crowded and strongly anti-Saddam section of Baghdad, the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera showed footage of edicts hung on the walls warning that looting is sinful and telling people they must fight looters. The footage showed groups of people reading the edicts with interest.

Al-Jazeera also showed footage of Baghdad residents returning plunder confiscated from looters to the mosques for people to claim. The network also reported that some people who resisted looters were shot at and some were wounded.

On Sunday, Marine riflemen and tank crews worked a checkpoint leading to the Tamooz Bridge over the Tigris River, stopping suspicious vehicles -- chiefly pickup trucks loaded with goods. Chairs, bookcases, refrigerators and toilets seized by the Marines were piled high by the side of the road. Confiscated hot-wired cars and trucks sat parked on a side street, awaiting owners with proper papers.

Local men, desperate to see calm return, helped the Marines translate and point out the guilty.

"I came here thinking I wouldn't need any Arabic at all -- just Put your hands up' andPut your weapons down,"' Marine Sgt. Steven Christopher said. "They've been teaching me how to talk to the thieves. Things like, You are lying, I'm not stupid,' andIf you steal, we will kill you."'

U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, went through Oday Hussein's palace in Baghdad to see what Saddam's son left behind when he apparently fled. They found lots of liquor, electronics, pornography, Cuban cigars and -- "one of the weirder things" -- pictures of President Bush's twin daughters in one of Oday's gymnasiums, Capt. Ed Ballanco said.

"We took the pictures down, though," Ballanco said. "Just to, kind of, protect our -- protect our president here."

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

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