Thursday, September 04, 2003

A known criminal, suspected guerrilla and most likely both, Dayikh lived on the fringes of Baghdad’s underworld, where residents say U.S. officials and their Iraqi allies are unprepared and ill-equipped to face resistance that has persisted for months.

With attacks against American forces averaging a dozen a day, U.S. officials have suggested that some of those strikes may be freelance operations, as loyalists of former president Saddam Hussein team up with outlaw networks that have shaken residents with increasingly bold kidnappings, carjackings and robberies. In an economic landscape becoming bleaker, they say, money is the common denominator. “In all probability, some of them may have linked up with former Baathists,” said Col. Guy Shields, a military spokesman, referring to the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq under Hussein.

Added Baghdad police Capt. Sabah Nijm, who investigated the bombing: “There are people giving them money to prepare the bombs against the Americans, maybe the police or even other Iraqis. They are young, they have no work, so they deal in danger. Everything that is forbidden is lucrative.”

As residents recall, Dayikh was the neighborhood ne’er-do-well. He brawled a lot, stabbing a neighbor in the shoulder two months ago. Even his family acknowledges he drank to excess. And he was notorious for brandishing his AK-47 assault rifle around the neighborhood, a gaggle of boxy, three-story apartments built in 1973 to house workers of a nearby state-owned factory.

“He was a dirty, filthy person,” said Mohammed Salim, a relative of one of the boys. “You could smell his filthiness a long way away.”

Enticed by money, residents said, Dayikh was drawn in 1998 to Saddam’s Fedayeen, a Baath Party militia that celebrated its purported suicidal zeal. He was spotted in the neighborhood dressed in the militia’s trademark black uniform, with the patch that listed its priorities: God, country and leader.

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