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Law and Order Slowly Returning to Baghdad

Law and Order Slowly Returning to Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi police stepped up patrols and volunteers directed traffic Tuesday in a slow return to law and order in Baghdad, while the Marines handed out fliers urging people to stay in their homes after dark for their own safety.

"To avoid placing coalition forces in a position where we must make a distinction between you and terrorist or criminal elements during a time of limited visibility, please do not leave your homes during this time," the message said.

The appeal, printed in English on one side, in Arabic on the other, stopped short of imposing a curfew, but urged people not to leave their homes between evening prayers and morning prayers. The message also asked people not to carry anything that looks like a weapon, to pull off to the side of the road to let convoys pass, and to tip off coalition forces to any dangers they might face.

In a sign of U.S. troops' high state of alert, Marines raided rooms at the Palestine Hotel -- where most foreign journalists in Baghdad are staying -- in a search for hardcore Iraqi fighters. The Marines kicked down doors and were seen guarding suspects in a hall and interrogating a man.

Foreign journalists using the hotel were subjected to body searches, and cars were carefully looked at under the hood and inside trunks. The Marines also designated a single entrance for nonmilitary personnel and vehicles. Barbed wire has been strung around the entire hotel complex, and dozens of Marines were on sentry duty.

Looters broke into government food warehouses in Baghdad and used wheelbarrows and pickup trucks to carry off sacks of sugar, flour and other supplies.

The looting and arson reached Iraq's National Library, which on Tuesday was a smoldering three-story shell, its floor covered with the ashes of books, possibly including some irreplaceable, centuries-old Arabic manuscripts. Nearby, the library of the Religious Affairs Ministry, home to invaluable religious texts, also was looted and gutted by fire.

Hundreds of Iraqis swarmed outside the Palestine Hotel, appealing for law and order in the city. Marines trying to placate the crowd moved out in front of the barbed wire, but the crowd surged toward them and they struggled to keep from being thrust into the wire themselves.

Among the crowd was a sign reading, in English, "Bloody liberation movie is started. Bad director."

Nevertheless, the lawlessness in Baghdad has eased considerably from last week, and looting has all but ended.

Groups of Marines were on foot patrol in some neighborhoods, looking for weapons caches and gunmen and seeking to deter looters.

The Marines in al-Hakimiyah area appeared relaxed, with small children their biggest fans. Children who touched the Marines' assault rifles were admonished.

Marine spokesman Cpl. John Hoellwarth said five joint patrols by Marines and Iraqi policemen went to work on Monday to try to restore law and order, and "today there are many more."

"We appealed for 150 policemen to join us and we got 750 to 1,000," he added.

Teenagers and older men directed traffic. Many drivers seemed happy to see the self-appointed traffic cops and flashed them thumbs-up signs, but only a few actually followed their directions.

Power, cut off for nearly two weeks in most of Baghdad, will be restored in 48 to 72 hours to some parts of the city, Hoellwarth said.

In downtown Baghdad's Irkheita Market, most of the shops opened for the first time since the collapse of the government last week. Still, many of the grocers did not have enough products to sell. Scores of people went out to buy meat, vegetables and fruits. Others sat in popular restaurants or in coffee shops.

At Mansour Hospital in northwest Baghdad, American civil affairs officers met with the staff to determine the hospital's needs and combed the building because of rumors that members of the Fedayeen paramilitary force were hiding there.

"As soon as we've assessed that it's safe, we're making a list of everything the hospital needs as far as medicine, power, fuel and water and we'll get as much as possible for them," said Army Capt. Doug Philippone of Columbus, Ga.

U.S. soldiers in northern Baghdad checked security at a water treatment plant and a grain elevator and looked for weapons at the main Iraq Railroad yard.

Civilians shook hands with the soldiers and wished them well. Others provided information about nearby weapons caches and places where soldiers and secret police once lived. Searching one building, troops found more abandoned uniforms, boots and thousands of rounds of assault rifle ammunition.

Civilians outside the Iraqi Railroad yard told soldiers there was a suspicious trailer inside one of the warehouses. Soldiers pried open the large trailer and found a mobile AM radio station. The equipment was new and appeared never used.

Another platoon tried to clear a city park of hundreds of Iraqi mortar and artillery shells. Civilians begged the troops to take the munitions away because children were starting to play with them.

"We're getting millions of these tips, some credible, some not so credible, saying there are weapons over here, a house full of Fedayeen over there," said Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp.

On Monday, two Army soldiers were killed and two wounded when a grenade exploded accidentally at a checkpoint south of Baghdad. A third soldier was killed and another wounded in an accidental shooting near the Baghdad airport.

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

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