Monday, August 18, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — British soldiers searching for weapons in a house in the southern city of Basra rescued a newborn baby who had been closed into a padlocked ammunition box, British officials said yesterday.

In Baghdad, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer said attacks by saboteurs on Iraq’s decrepit infrastructure and oil industry have cost the economy billions of dollars and that an American soldier was reported to be killed by an explosive device.

The 2-day-old girl in Basra appeared to have been in the 3-foot-long box for about 10 minutes when two soldiers from the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment found her in the house in the city of Basra, said Defense Ministry officials in London.

The baby girl “appeared close to death” but was revived by Pvt. Damien Kenny, 18, and Pvt. Jonathan Hunt, 21, the ministry said.

Troops later located the infant’s mother, and both were taken to a hospital. “It has been established that the baby had been born prematurely,” said a spokesman at the British command center in Basra.

The mother told soldiers that the father put the child in the box, said Lt. Craig Rogers, who commanded the unit that found the baby. Officials said it was not clear why the father did so nor whether he sought to hide the child during the soldiers’ raid.

The father was arrested, Lt. Rogers told a London radio station. Soldiers recovered assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and ammunition from the house, the military said.

North of Baghdad, U.S. Army engineers dropped water from helicopters to try to douse the flames on the main oil-export pipeline to Turkey, a crucial economic lifeline that reopened Wednesday but was shut down two days later after saboteurs set it ablaze.

Mr. Bremer told CNN in an interview that hard-core supporters of fugitive dictator Saddam Hussein were behind the wave of sabotage attacks, which also knocked out water supplies to the capital during the weekend.

“These are probably people left over from the old regime who are simply fighting a rear-guard action by attacking Iraq’s assets,” Mr. Bremer said. “We’ve had these attacks on a pretty regular basis over the last three months, causing literally billions of dollars of losses to the Iraqi people.”

Mr. Bremer said saboteurs had also been mounting frequent attacks on the power grid. Sabotage and theft of power cables have caused repeated electricity blackouts in the south of Iraq and badly hit exports from the country’s southern oil fields.

A bomb attack on a major water pipeline in north Baghdad on Sunday cut off water supplies to as many as 4 million people for several hours in searing summer temperatures.

More than 200,000 people were still without water supplies yesterday morning, but a spokesman for the United Nations agency UNICEF said its teams had repaired the damage by early afternoon.

Attacks on coalition troops in Iraq have killed 60 U.S. and seven British service members since Washington declared major combat over May 1.

The latest fatality was a soldier from the 1st Armored Division who was pronounced dead at the 28th Combat Support Hospital after being injured in an explosion yesterday in Karada, a mainly Shi’ite neighborhood in central Baghdad, according to a statement from Central Command. No further details were available.

Lt. Col. William MacDonald, spokesman for the U.S. 4th Infantry Division in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit, said two U.S. troops had been injured by small-arms fire in a separate incident north of that town.

Col. MacDonald said soldiers from the division had also killed two Iraqis in the past day: one a looter who ignored warning shots and another who was in a car that was fired on after it did not stop at a roadblock.

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