U.S. Arrests Wife of Saddam Deputy
2 minutes ago
By NIKO PRICE, Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - American troops hunting for a top Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) deputy suspected of masterminding anti-U.S. attacks arrested his wife and daughter in an apparent attempt to pressure his surrender. A major pipeline from northern Iraqi oilfields was ablaze Wednesday.
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Hours after rockets shook the center of Baghdad, setting off warning sirens in the U.S. headquarters compound, Britain's visiting foreign secretary said Iraq (news - web sites) will be a safer place once the U.S.- and British-led coalition hands over power to an Iraqi government.
The coalition's handling of post-war Iraq came under sharp criticism from the retired American general who first led the occupation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Jay Garner said he should have deployed more troops in Baghdad and communicated better with the Iraqis — and said his successors made a mistake in disbanding the Iraqi army.
Troops of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division in Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad, arrested the wife and daughter of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a top Saddam associate, division spokesman Lt. Col. William MacDonald said Wednesday.
Under Saddam, al-Douri was vice chairman of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, and shortly before the war began March 20, Saddam placed him in charge of defenses in northern Iraq.
MacDonald gave no details on why the wife and daughter were seized. American forces have frequently arrested relatives of fugitives to interrogate them on their family member's whereabouts and as a way of putting pressure on the wanted men to surrender.
U.S. officials have said they believe al-Douri has planned some of the attacks against U.S. forces, and last week offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture. Al-Douri is No. 6 on the list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.
MacDonald said a man he identified as the son of a physician was also taken into custody in the raid Tuesday. He had no further information about the man.
In London, Garner, said in an interview broadcast Wednesday on British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the U.S.-led coalition made mistakes after it took control of Baghdad.
The retired lieutenant general, who was replaced by L. Paul Bremer after less than a month in the job, said he could have done better at communicating with the Iraqi people. He also said the coalition should have moved more quickly to establish a government in Iraq and put more troops in Baghdad, including more infantry.
"If we did it over again, we probably would have put more dismounted infantrymen in Baghdad and maybe more troops there," Garner said, when asked what the biggest mistakes of the occupation had been.
He said Bremer's decision to disband the army "was a mistake."
"You're talking about around a million or more people ... that are suffering because the head of the household's out of work," providing potential recruits for the anti-U.S. insurgency, he said.
A coalition official in Baghdad said Bremer's administration had repeatedly explained the decision and there was nothing to add.
Bremer has justified the disbanding by saying that the army had already dissipated during the last days of the war, military facilities were heavily damaged and stripped bare by looters and it was necessary to rid the military of Saddam's Baathist supporters.
The coalition official also called it unfair for Garner to claim the coalition was not getting its message across to the Iraqi public. "Jay Garner has not been here since June, and doesn't really know all that's been done," the official said on condition of anonymity.
North of Baghdad, witnesses near the village of Sharqat said sheets of flame and thick black smoke were shooting from the damaged pipeline, only 30 miles from Iraq's largest oil refinery.
There was no immediate explanation for the cause of the blaze, but guerrillas have repeatedly attacked pipelines in the general area. The attacks have complicated efforts to revive Iraq's giant petroleum industry, the key to its economic recovery.
Iraq has the second-largest proven petroleum reserves in OPEC (news - web sites). But many companies are holding back until they see an improvement in security against attacks by militants opposed to American troops and the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, on a two-day visit to Iraq, said a transition to Iraqi rule will improve security. More than five dozen U.S. troops have been killed by hostile fire in November, more than any other month since the official end of major combat in Iraq on May 1.
"I'm absolutely sure that a more rapid political process will assist the security situation," Straw said at a news conference.
"The more that we can give all Iraqis a stake in their future and a stable political architecture in which to work, the more I believe more Iraqis will become committed to that future and fewer will think that terror and quiescence in terror is the way forward."
Straw met with members of the coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council to discuss the U.S. plan to transfer power to a new, transitional government by June 30.
Three large explosions shook downtown Baghdad on Tuesday evening, triggering a warning siren in the "Green Zone" housing the U.S. headquarters. Capt. David Gercken, a spokesman for the U.S. 1st Armored Division, said rockets hit a bus station, a propane station and an apartment building, wounding two Iraqis, near — but not in — the "Green Zone."
Since operations began in Iraq, 297 U.S. service members have died in hostile action, including 183 since May 1 when President Bush (news - web sites) declared an end to major fighting.
The U.S. command has in recent weeks pursued insurgents more aggressively in an attempt to stop them before they strike.
In one such operation, troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment encircled three towns along the Syrian border in a search for weapons and fighters, according to a U.S. News and World Report correspondent who returned from the area Tuesday.
The troops established a cordon Thursday around the towns of Husaybah, Karabilah and Sadah, total population 120,000, and haven't let anyone in or out, the reporter said.
The reporter, Bay Fang, said soldiers have detained more than 300 people and discovered several weapons caches. One held about 800 World War II-era torpedoes.
Associated Press correspondent Jim Gomez in Tikrit contributed to this story.
good news, arrest them all