Friday, September 19, 2003


And look who is out front!
Iraqi police launched the biggest postwar crackdown on Baghdad crime on Thursday, sirens wailing and guns at the ready as they set up checkpoints to net criminal gangs, stolen cars and weapons.

Backed up by U.S. military police, more than 100 Iraqi police cars swept through the capital, stopping at about 70 locations in a city whose nerves have been frayed by crime, firefights and bombings since it fell to U.S. forces in April.

''Tonight marks the night that the Iraqi citizen takes back control of Baghdad streets,'' U.S. Army Colonel Ted Spain said, ahead of an exercise intended partly as a show of force to boost public confidence.

''The Baghdad streets now belong to the Iraqi citizens, not to the criminals and terrorists. Saddam is gone, Saddam is not coming back,'' he added.

Officers said the crackdown would focus on finding stolen cars, catching 10 key criminal gangs or individuals, and seizing weapons. U.S. forces will reinforce several checkpoints at the request of the Iraqis.

The Iraqi police chief said he would not need U.S. backup for long. ''We feel the Iraqi police can do these things on their own,'' Ahmed Qadim Ibrahim told Reuters. ''As soon as the citizens feel confident the Iraqis can do this on their own, we will.''

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