[This story was updated on 04.11.2003 at 5:49 p.m. ET.]
Reports of looting and civilian unrest throughout Iraq are being grossly exaggerated, according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
In his daily press conference from the Pentagon on Friday (April 11), Rumsfeld accused the media of delivering distorted perspectives on the situation in Baghdad and elsewhere in the days following Saddam Hussein’s loss of authority in the capital. He said some networks repeatedly aired the same images of people walking out of buildings with televisions, tables, chairs — anything that wasn’t nailed down, really — to instill a sense that the unruly behavior was more widespread than it actually was. He pointed to the extensive and repeated use of footage of a boy carrying a vase out of a building in particular.
“You have to wonder whether there are that many vases in all of Iraq,” he said, visibility annoyed.
Looting has subsided in Basra, Rumsfeld said, adding that adequate supplies of food and water are available, electricity has returned to the city, and medical supplies are at pre-war levels. CNN reported Thursday that angry Shiites in Basra looted, vandalized and burned Saddam Hussein’s presidential yacht.
New guidelines for conduct were issued to U.S. troops as more regions of Iraq fell into anarchy as a result of the vacancy or destruction of Hussein’s regime. Although according to the Pentagon, U.S. soldiers have begun to arrest some people, under the new policies U.S. troops are not to use deadly force to prevent looting but should seek to ensure that schools and other public facilities continue to function and that businesses operate properly. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been established for Iraqi citizens. (Click here for images from the front.)
“The Saddam regime has ended, is over, and we will stay until there is a free government,” Gen. Tommy Franks told his officers. “We are going to respect their culture and their religion.”
Vouchers for food, clothing or medicine that the previous regime issued are still valid, Franks said. Police and other emergency workers, such as firefighters, should be allowed to continue their jobs, and Iraqis would be allowed to continue to keep firearms in their homes.
Meanwhile, the violence continued in Baghdad as the ministries of education, defense, trade and planning were ransacked and set on fire, according to CNN. Also hit was one of the main markets in the center of town, and the foreign and information ministries and the Baath Party headquarters were also pillaged. (Click for map of the battlefield.)
It’s not just government buildings coming under civilian wrath, however. Baghdad’s engineering and nursing colleges have been hit, and hospitals throughout Iraq were reportedly being ravaged.
In the fourth day after Saddam Hussein was believed to be dead following an attack on an underground bunker, the search for the dethroned dictator and his cronies continues throughout the country. In an effort to etch the most-wanted men of Hussein’s regime into the collective consciousness of the troops, the U.S. military has distributed decks of cards printed with images of the senior members of the fallen government. Saddam Hussein, naturally, is the ace of spades, among the 54 other outlaws. The names of the wanted men were also printed on posters and handbills for the Iraqi people.
Despite the fall of the regime, sporadic fighting continues throughout the country. The Baath Party headquarters in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Takrit, 100 miles north of Baghdad, came under coalition fire. Defended by the remaining elements of the Special Republican Guard, Fedayeen and Baath Party loyalists, the town is believed by U.S. intelligence to be where Saddam Hussein, if alive, could make his last stand.
U.S. troops also seized control of Mosul and Kirkuk, the largest two cities in northern Iraq. Shortly after their arrival in Mosul, citizens reportedly went on a rampage, looting government offices, schools, hospitals and other facilities.
Other recent key developments:
- Ten men suspected to be behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen have somehow escaped prison, Yemen authorities told Reuters. A massive search was under way at press time. The terrorist attack on the U.S. warship in port killed 17 American sailors and was blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
- France should be made to “pay some consequences” for opposing the U.S. during the run-up to war in Iraq, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told members of Congress Thursday.
- Ahmed Chalabi, a member the Hussein-opposing Iraqi National Congress, is no longer being considered as a candidate to govern the new Iraq.
- The latest statistics state 107 U.S. and 31 U.K. troops have been killed in the fighting, while 10 U.S. soldiers remain missing in action. A large force is dedicated to finding them, Rumsfeld said.
- In the southern city of Najaf, a mob killed two Shiite Muslim clerics near a shrine, Reuters reported. One of the religious leaders was a loyalist of Saddam, the other was a leader returning from exile who had shown support for coalition forces.
- Against stern U.S. warnings, Syria helped Iraqis flee across the border and provided night-vision goggles to Iraqi soldiers, according to Rumsfeld, but the country has claimed to have since closed its border with Iraq. Stiff resistance from Hussein loyalists is expected in the Iraqi border town of Qaim, however.
- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that U.N. weapons inspectors should return to Iraq to oversee the search for weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has said that it will take the lead in any such searches.
- The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank each pledged to give billions to help the Iraqi economy get back on its feet. But representatives from both international agencies said they wanted to visit the country first to get a better understanding of how its economy functioned under Saddam Hussein.
— Joe D’Angelo, Jon Wiederhorn and Ethan Zindler