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U.S. Army Sending Thousands of Troops to Baghdad

U.S. Army Sending Thousands of Troops to Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The U.S. Army will deploy up to 4,000 additional military police and infantrymen in Baghdad within two weeks to help stem the lawlessness that has plagued the capital, the deputy commander said Tuesday.

American MPs within a week will begin retraining Baghdad police officers volunteering for a reconstituted police force, Maj. Gen. Glenn Webster said.

Webster, deputy commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, spoke with reporters before a town hall meeting with dozens of city officials and other Iraqis to discuss the disorder afflicting the city since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

"There is no security so far. We hear so much shooting, and we see so many robberies," Sahad Bakhnam, a water-plant manager attending the meeting, told a reporter. "We cannot start schools in these circumstances."

The Baghdad police force appeared to dissolve when U.S. forces took control of the city April 9, but it is slowly being revived.

"It's difficult to characterize it with numbers," Webster said of current police strength. "Every day that improves." He said the U.S. military police and other reinforcements -- added to more than 12,000 U.S. troops now in Baghdad -- will mount joint patrols, on foot and in vehicles, with Baghdad police.

"In the coming two weeks, an additional 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers will move into the city to help us help you," Webster told the meeting participants, who included academics, technocrats and directors of city agencies.

The new U.S. civil administrator for Iraq, retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, took part in the conference and told reporters afterward the Iraqis expressed varied concerns.

"The lady in there, all of her concerns were citizen-type. The businessmen were concerned about protection of banks. The doctors were concerned about protection of hospitals," Garner said.

In the past three weeks, looters have pillaged government offices and raided homes, shops and other businesses, hundreds of buildings have been burned, and gunfire has resounded through the day and night across the city.

Webster said U.S. forces are holding more than 5,000 Iraqi prisoners in two large holding facilities in Baghdad.

Iraqis have complained that U.S. forces did too little to safeguard Baghdad -- from simple shops to the ancient treasures of the Iraq National Museum -- in the immediate aftermath of the fighting for the capital.

"The Number 1 issue here in Baghdad is security," said Garner's British deputy, Maj. Gen Tim Cross. "There is no doubt in my mind that there are some people who are trying to take over parts of the city."

Coalition radio has been giving residents instructions for improving the security situation. Among them: Stay off the streets from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.; government employees must return to their jobs; all members of Saddam's Baath Party must identify themselves to coalition forces; and hospitals must stay open 24 hours a day.

It said violators could face unspecified penalties.

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

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