- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2004

BAGHDAD — The United States has used information gained during interrogations of Saddam Hussein to help round up insurgents and identify false leads, a senior military official said yesterday.

American military officials think about 14 cells of Saddam loyalists are operating in Iraq’s capital, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There are 250 to 300 “hard-core” insurgents in those cells, he said.

Documents found with the ousted Iraqi president and information gleaned during interrogations have helped American troops disrupt those cells and track their finances, the official said. He would not say what information Saddam might have given.

U.S. troops captured Saddam on Dec. 13. Officials have said previously that the documents were helpful, but the statement yesterday was the first indication that Saddam’s interrogations are bearing fruit.

On the military front, commanders of the Army’s 1st Armored Division said they plan to cut the number of bases in Baghdad from 26 to eight by the time the 1st Cavalry Division takes over responsibility for the capital in mid-April.

The pullback is part of a strategy to allow Iraq’s fledgling police and civil defense forces to take over responsibility for security in Baghdad, said Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division.

About 8,000 Iraqi police work in Baghdad, with about 6,000 members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. U.S. Army officials calculate that Baghdad needs about 19,000 police.

Foreign fighters continue to come into Iraq, most of them from Syria, military officials said. Two Yemenis and an Egyptian died in a shootout with American troops in Baghdad last week, for example.

U.S. officials in Baghdad said terror network al Qaeda and an affiliate, the radical Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam, are active in Iraq. But the officials would not discuss supporting evidence.

North of Baghdad, suicide bombers struck the offices of two rival Kurdish parties in near-simultaneous attacks yesterday, as hundreds of Iraqis gathered in Irbil to celebrate a Muslim holiday. At least 57 persons were killed and more than 235 were wounded, officials said.

Nobody took responsibility, but Ansar al-Islam operates in the Kurdish region.

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