- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

LONDON Open acts of defiance by opponents of Saddam Hussein's regime have intensified in the past week, with saboteurs carrying out attacks against Iraq's railway system and protesters openly calling for the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator.
The most blatant act of sabotage took place 20 miles south of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where members of the Iraqi opposition blew up a stretch of track on the Mosul-Baghdad railway, causing the derailment of a train.
"Until recently such acts of open defiance were very rare and were dealt with harshly," a Foreign Office official commented yesterday. "But as Saddam concentrates his energies on trying to protect his regime from attack, Iraqi opposition groups are becoming more audacious in their attacks."
Before fleeing back to their base in Kurdistan, the saboteurs left piles of leaflets by the side of the track urging the Iraqi soldiers who were sent to investigate the explosion to join the "international alliance to liberate Iraq" from "Saddam the criminal." In a separate incident, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a train illegally transporting fuel from Baghdad to Syria.
The only area where Saddam can rely with confidence on the loyalty of his security forces is in the Ba'ath Party's heartland around Baghdad. In an attempt to reassert his authority, Saddam issued a directive last week ordering Iraqi officials not to give up their positions and flee the country.
To set an example, members of Saddam's security forces arrested a civil servant in the al-Hurriyya suburb of Baghdad on suspicion of preparing to leave the country. The official was tied to a pole in the street and passers-by were ordered to watch as his tongue was cut out and he was left to bleed to death.
Demonstrations are reported to have taken place in Kirkuk, where an estimated crowd of 20,000 marched on the Ba'ath Party's office demanding Saddam's overthrow. Three posters of the Iraqi leader were torn down, and a grenade was thrown at the government building. One senior Ba'ath official was reported killed.
There were unconfirmed reports that another demonstration by Iraqi Shi'ites in the holy city of Kerbala last weekend was violently suppressed after the intervention of militiamen loyal to Saddam.
The escalation in attacks by Iraqi opposition groups has been accompanied by widespread acts of anti-Saddam vandalism. Posters of the Iraqi president, which adorn every public building, are being openly defaced and vandalized throughout the country.
Until recently, anyone caught carrying out such acts would have received a death sentence. But the mounting acts of open defiance against Saddam's regime is indicative of the growing confidence being displayed by the main Iraqi opposition groups.

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