- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Some infiltrators from Syria were killed by American troops after they shot a U.S. helicopter, forcing it to land but causing no troop casualties, coalition officials said yesterday.

“Soldiers engaged a small number of people who infiltrated from the border,” a coalition spokesman said.

“Some were killed, others detained,” he said, adding that small arms and rocket-propelled grenades were seized.

During the operation, an OH-58 reconnaissance helicopter took small arms fire that damaged a hydraulic pump and forced the pilot to land, the spokesman said.

There were no U.S. injuries in the Tuesday night incident, which involved the 82nd Airborne Division, near Husaybah, about 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, another spokesman said.

The coalition regularly searches for foreign fighters slipping into Iraq from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran to battle U.S. troops.

Iraq’s interim foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said in Malaysia yesterday that terror network al Qaeda is active in Iraq and poses a “serious threat” to the country’s future.

“There are terrorist groups and members of al Qaeda active in Iraq today, who are working to conduct their attacks against the coalition and against Iraqi targets at the same time,” Mr. Zebari said at a news conference on the sidelines of the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit.

“They have entered the country from many neighboring countries, and they are a serious threat to the security and stability of Iraq and of our people,” he added.

Iraqis, meanwhile, began drawing their new currency from banks nationwide yesterday, exchanging “Saddams,” bank notes bearing the fugitive dictator’s portrait, for a series with historical themes similar to dinar bills of two decades ago.

In the presence of American armor and guns, the flow of customers at banks in the capital, Baghdad, appeared nearly normal. People have three months to turn in their old money, but many already had deposited expiring dinars in bank accounts in recent weeks.

“So there’s no need for a stampede,” said Mowafaq H. Mahmood, chief executive officer of the private Bank of Baghdad.

Baghdadis also may have stayed away out of fear that pro-Saddam Hussein militants might target banks on the first day of the exchange. The city was rocked by three suicide car bombings in the past week. “That’s why we’ve got American protection,” said Mr. Mahmood, whose bank has 18 branches nationwide.

The one-to-one exchange of dinar notes will provide no major boost to the crippled Iraqi economy, other than eliminating a severe counterfeiting problem plaguing the old currency.

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