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U.S. Troops Thwart Baghdad Bank Robbery

U.S. Troops Thwart Baghdad Bank Robbery

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(AP) - American commandos captured a half brother of Saddam Hussein on Thursday, the latest success in a campaign to round up insiders from the former regime. U.S. troops thwarted a Baghdad bank robbery over the protests of Iraqis eager to share in the loot.

U.S. Troops Thwart Baghdad Bank Robbery

As U.S. forces struggled to restore order in Iraq, FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that agents had been detailed to help recover antiquities looted from museums in Baghdad and elsewhere. Agents will aid international efforts to recover stolen items "on both the open and black markets," he said.

With the fighting all but over, the USS Constellation steamed from the Persian Gulf for its home port, carrying dozens of warplanes no longer needed to bomb Iraqi forces into submission. It was the second aircraft carrier ordered home in recent days.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks announced the capture of Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, telling reporters he was an adviser to Saddam "with extensive knowledge of the regime's inner workings." His face was on the five of clubs in the Pentagon's deck of most-wanted Iraqis.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Barzan Hasan had been a presidential adviser to Saddam's regime since 1998, but had a shaky relationship with his half brother and was not part of the regime's inner circle.

U.S. Troops Thwart Baghdad Bank Robbery

He was a representative to the United Nations in Geneva from 1989 to 1998. Earlier, from 1979 to 1983, he headed Iraq's Mukhabarat, or intelligence service, a period when the organization arranged executions of regime opponents in Iraq and overseas, the official said.

Brooks provided scant details of the operation that netted Barzan Hasan, saying that he was taken inside Baghdad and that U.S. special forces were aided by Marines. He said there were no casualties.

Another of Saddam's three half brothers, Watban Ibrahim Hasan, was captured earlier by U.S. forces. The third has not been found.

American forces have been criticized for failing to stop looting in several Baghdad cities, and there have been complaints, as well, that humanitarian relief has been slow in arriving.

But Marines foiled a brazen act of lawlessness during the day when they interrupted a robbery-in-progress at a branch of the al-Rashid Bank and took away $4 million for safekeeping.

U.S. Troops Thwart Baghdad Bank Robbery

Thieves had blown a hole in the vault and dropped children in to bring out fistfuls of cash. As word spread that the robbery was under way, Iraqis gathered, saying they had accounts at the branch, and a riot broke out.

Marines broke it up -- over the protests of Iraqis not involved in the robbery -- and removed $4 million in American dollars. The thieves were arrested.

"These people want the money and they believe it is rightfully their money, but they don't understand that the proper distribution is not first-come, first-served," said Col. Philip DeCamp, a battalion commander.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told reporters during a visit to Kuwait that "the looting goes down every day and I think you will continue to see it go down because the Iraqis are now stepping up and controlling the problems for themselves."

There was evidence of slow progress. Baghdad residents gathered outside the city's police academy when word spread that some of the cars looted in recent days had been recovered.

Still, more than a week after the regime collapsed, Marine Staff Sgt. Jose Guillen said power has been restored -- by use of diesel plants -- to only about 500 homes in Baghdad, a city of roughly 5 million. He said U.S. forces expect to get one of the city's power grids on line by Friday.

U.S. Troops Thwart Baghdad Bank Robbery

At the same time, there was continued unrest in other parts of the country. Americans sought to bring calm to Mosul, where U.S. troops have killed 17 people in clashes earlier in the week.

Brooks, briefing reporters at the U.S. Central Command headquarters, also disclosed that Marines had broken up violent clashes on Wednesday in Tikrit, Saddam's home town. The fighting broke out between club-wielding members of the former ruler's clan and a rival group, he said.

Clan rivalries aside, there are numerous other resentments shaping events in the post-Saddam era. Majority Shiite Muslims are eager for power after decades of Saddam's favoring Sunni Muslims, for example. And Kurds are eager to claim what they say Saddam took from them and gave to Arabs in the northern part of the country.

International experts, appalled at the looting of Iraqi historical artifacts, met in Paris under U.N. auspices and called for a temporary embargo on Iraqi cultural objects.

Some of the participants at the meeting said it appeared the looting was organized, and some of those involved had keys to museum vaults and were able to remove items from safes.

One suggested the effort was organized from outside Iraq.

"It looks as if part of the looting was a deliberate planned action," said McGuire Gibson, a University of Chicago professor and president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad.

"I have a suspicion it was organized outside the country, in fact I'm pretty sure it was," Gibson said. He added that if a good police team was put together, "I think it could be cracked in no time."

The museum housed irreplaceable Babylonian, Sumerian and Assyrian collections that chronicled ancient life in the cradle of civilization, the area around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

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

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