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US trying to restore law and order in Baghdad, not facing resistance in Tikrit
April 13, 2003 15:02 IST
A top Iraqi policemen on Sunday held a meeting with US forces as a first step towards restoring a semblance of law and order in Baghdad even as US troops faced little resistance in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit.
He said that efforts would be made to get the policemen, who disappeared once it was clear that Baghdad would fall to US forces, back on their jobs.
Since April 9, when the capital fell to the US forces, there has been little semblance of law and order. Looting has been the order of the day, with government buildings being the main target.
People fear that if things are not brought under control, the looters may soon target innocent and vulnerable residents of the city.
Humanitarian agencies appealed to the United States to help check the lawlessness that threatens to delay badly needed aid, and US officials hurriedly made plans for a conference early next week to discuss the country's future government.
In an important development, a BBC report said that US troops had come across six US prisoners of war somewhere in northern Baghdad.
Meanwhile, on the road leading to Tikrit, advancing US forces came across several abandoned Armoured Personnel Carriers and tanks, CNN reported on Sunday.
General Tommy Franks, the US officer in charge of the war in Iraq, on Sunday said US forces were not meeting any resistance in Tikrit.
"I wouldn't say it's over but I will say we have American forces in Tikrit right now. When last I checked, this force was moving on Tikrit and there was no resistance," Franks told CNN in an interview at the war headquarters in Qatar.
"I think it would be premature to say well, gosh, it's all done, it's all finished," he said.
Tikrit, a city 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, is the last major Iraqi centre not yet controlled by US forces.
Saddam's concentration of power among his closest family, and distrust of most people outside his Albu Nasir tribe, meant Tikritis formed the backbone of his most loyal military forces.
Armed men continued to guard the town but it is believed that tribal heads in the city had offered to surrender provided US forces were not accompanied by people opposed to Saddam Hussein.
Earlier on Sunday, CNN correspondent Brent Sadler and his crew escaped serious injury when their vehicles came under fire in Tikrit. His team had earlier shot footage, which showed the northern outskirts of the city had been abandoned.
In Washington, a newspaper report said that several leading Iraqi biological weapons scientists may have fled to Syria,
Senior figures in the Bush administration have in recent weeks accused Syria of providing military help to Iraq.
Among those said to have made it across the Iraqi border to Syria were Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a woman known by US intelligence officers as 'Mrs. Anthrax', and Rihab Taha, nicknamed 'Dr Germ', The Washington Times reported on Saturday, citing unnamed US government officials.
Ammash was named on Friday as one of 55 Iraqis the US military has ordered to be captured or killed. Taha was not listed, but is wanted for questioning, the report said.
Ammash has been seen in photographs of Saddam's cabinet meetings as well as in meetings with his son, Qusay, who ran most of Iraq's military and security organisations.
Taha, who was trained in Britain as a microbiologist, is said to have led an Iraqi program to develop anthrax weapons, the paper said.
The US launched its war on Iraq on March 20 allegedly to rid the country of its chemical and biological weapons. The toppled government of Saddam Hussein denied having such weapons, and US forces are yet to find any either.
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