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Coalition Troops, Iraqi Police Patrol Baghdad

BY Admin  April 14, 2003 at 11:30 AM EDT

Responding to a call from coalition forces, around 2,000 Iraqi police officers in Baghdad have volunteered for the force. While the volunteer officers will provide much-needed security in the capital, they fall far short of the 40,000-strong member police force that patrolled the city prior to the war.

Several hundred volunteers — some in police uniforms and some in plainclothes — reported to the Iraqi police academy Monday, registering as U.S. Marines looked on. The Iraqi force began accompanying troops late Sunday or early Monday, Navy Captain Frank Thorp of U.S. Central Command told the Associated Press.

“We’re beginning to see a downward trend in looting,” he said.

Thorp did not specify whether the volunteer patrollers were former policemen or members of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party, describing them as “people who are interested in creating infrastructure and hoping for a better Baghdad and better Iraq. As local commanders work in the cities, they’re identifying people who want to help.”

“But let me stress we still call on Iraqis themselves to protect their city and their country and their future,” he continued.

Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi, an official in the Iraqi National Congress opposition party, led a meeting of religious and civil opposition leaders Monday in a discussion about restoring water and electricity to Baghdad.

The International Red Cross said Monday that security appears to be improving in Baghdad, freeing aid workers to work on restoring water supplies and visiting hospitals.

“It appears there are more people in the streets, so we think there is some progress in terms of security,” Nada Doumani, a Red Cross spokeswoman, told Agence France-Presse.

As of Sunday, several Baghdad hospitals were still without water or power. Looters have ransacked several medical facilities, and the hospital system is under duress despite the fact that the U.S. began airlifting medical supplies and other equipment in late last week.

Crowds of Iraqi citizens gathered outside Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel on Sunday to protest the lack of power and water supplies, and to demand increased security to slow the widespread ransacking.

Some protesters blamed the United States and the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein for the looting, accusing them of “selling Iraq.”

Heavy looting at the National Museum of Iraq was chief among their concerns. Some blame the U.S. military for losses at the museum, saying soldiers did not provide adequate security.

Looters have destroyed and stolen a 170,000-item collection of artifacts detailing more than 5,000 years of civilization and estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO has urged the United States and Britain to protect Iraq’s antiquities. The agency will hold an emergency meeting on Iraq next week.