- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

BAGHDAD — U.S. and Iraqi officials say hundreds of tons of Iraqi ordnance similar to that used in last week’s bombing of the U.N. headquarters remain unaccounted for, leaving open the possibility of more and bigger attacks.

When the war ended, “the munitions were everywhere, even on the sidewalks,” said former Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Muhammad Abdullah Nour in an interview.

“Not just 500-pound bombs, but 2-ton or 5-ton bombs or 10-ton bombs. The Iraqi army was scattered all over Iraq and when they abandoned their posts they left the weapons there.

“Anyone with any military experience could have taken these munitions and made them into bombs,” Gen. Nour said. “Leaving them there was a major mistake by the American Army.”

Members of Iraq’s 25-person Governing Council and others have criticized the U.S. coalition for not securing weapons when they drove Iraqi forces from the battlefield in April.

But the Americans say Iraq was so heavily armed that U.S. troops could not have seized them all.

U.S. Army Col. Guy Shields said coalition forces have been working round-the-clock to dispose of old Iraqi munitions, but that the task sometimes seems endless.

“[Saddam Hussein] spent so much money and bought so much munitions that they’re everywhere,” he said. “We try to get rid of them, but every day we find more and more.”

Last week’s truck-bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad that killed 23 persons underscored the threat.

Investigators say the bomb, which killed U.N. Iraq point man Sergio Vieira de Mello, was fashioned out of old Iraqi munitions — including a 500-pound bomb — looted after the collapse of Saddam’s regime.

“We have warned the coalition forces and told them this terrorism was caused by the absence of security and police forces on the borders of Iraq,” Naseer Kamel Chaderchi, a member of Iraq’s Governing Council, said in an interview.

Mr. Chaderchi and others say the threat is compounded with militant Islamists who, like Saddam loyalists, have ready access to munitions.

“Many Arabs have entered the border illegally either from the Syrian border or the Jordanian border or from somewhere else. The coalition forces in their present shape cannot provide security for the Iraqi people,” Mr. Chaderchi said.

Americans, under the direction of former New York police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, have begun building up Iraq’s security forces, training police and border guards.

Some 13,000 Iraqi border police, customs officials and immigration officers are already stationed along Iraq’s borders.

Another 7,000 are planned in the coming months, but officials say it is not easy protecting Iraq’s long, harsh, porous borders.

Iraqi politicians — even those handpicked by the Ameicans for the Governing Council — have long demanded a greater role in maintaining security for the country, and the bombing opened the way for even harsher criticism of the American forces.

At the Mazen barber shop, patrons discuss kidnappings, rapes, carjackings as well as speculate about who could be behind the bombings of the U.N. offices and the Jordanian Embassy.

“In Saddam’s time there were police, the army and the Ba’ath Party and they couldn’t control the Iraqi people,” said owner Amar Taleq. “Can the American military control the Iraqi people? I don’t think so.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide