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Marines raid atomic research facility |

Marines raid atomic research facility

| Tuesday, April 8, 2003 12:00 a.m

Acting on a tip from residents, Marines on Sunday raided an abandoned branch of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission south of Baghdad and found several laboratories, gas masks, chemical suits, vats of industrial chemicals, and a map listing buildings that contained “radioactive material,” the Washington Post is reporting.

Troops from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, scoured the fortified government complex, but a cursory inspection revealed ordinary levels of radiation and chemical contamination. Commanders said they saw enough to call in a “sensitive site exploitation” team to conduct a thorough analysis.

“It could be nothing, but the obvious thing to do is clear the place and notify through the chain of command that we have found what may be a sensitive site,” said the commander of the 7th Marine Regiment, Col. Steven Hummer, who visited the battalion to inspect the find. “The experts will be able to tell relatively soon.”

The Marines kicked in doors and rifled through offices, hoping to uncover what nearly three weeks of war has failed to produce: hard evidence that Iraq has a nuclear, chemical or biological weapons program.

Saudi paper’s editor criticizes Arab media

In three articles over recent days, the editor in chief of the London’s Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat has blasted Arab media coverage of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The editor, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, roundly criticized print and broadcast outlets that, he said, had become little more than pawns for Saddam Hussein’s information ministry, according to translations of the articles provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

“Watch what most of the Arab cable stations — not only Al-Jazeera — are broadcasting from Baghdad,” Al-Rashed writes. “Notice the difference in press conferences on both sides. In the West, journalists are not satisfied with listening. They probe, express opposing opinions and expose lies. In our media, anything (Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed) Al-Sahhaf says is broadcast as if he was a Friday preacher in a mosque.”

The inaccurate reporting has consequences, Al-Rashed says.

“The media influence reached such a point that supporters of democracy started to rally behind a world dictator, and religious people started to congregate for prayer behind the leader of the (secular) Baath Party.”

Baghdad hospitals low on resources

Overwhelmed hospitals in Baghdad are running out of drugs and anesthetics and are short of water and electricity, the Red Cross said Monday.

“There is no doubt really that the resources and staff of these places are really stretched to the limit,” said Florian Westphal, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the main aid agency left in Iraq. “They have very little power, if any. This morning, for example, they said they were functioning entirely with generators.”

The organization also said that the number of casualties in Baghdad is so high that accurate statistics were impossible to maintain.

Al-Kindi, one of the five major hospitals treating war wounded in Baghdad, received more than 50 casualties in a five-hour period yesterday, Red Cross staff were told. Westphal said the injuries were suffered in bombing and ground fighting, but it was unclear how many of the wounded Iraqis are civilians.

“Yesterday, we managed to bring some drinking water to five different hospitals and established bladder tanks at three hospitals, but we are concerned,” Westphal said. “A hospital — especially one where surgery is being done — needs a lot of water.”

Saudis say strolling Saddam was a fake

The tape of Saddam Hussein shown strolling the streets of Baghdad Friday was faked, and the man at the center of the crowd’s praise was a double, says the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan.

Monday’s front page shows pictures from the video run by Iraq’s state television and of a double known as “Al-Haddoushi.”

The paper says Saudi intelligence sources believe the tape shows Al-Haddoushi and not Saddam, according to a translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute. The video shows a healthy Iraqi president strolling the streets to the praise of Iraqis.

Bounties offered, bombers praised

Suggesting disarray among Iraq’s elite fighters, Saddam Hussein urged Iraqi troops separated from their combat units to join other squads to fend off the Americans, in a statement read Sunday on Iraqi television and radio.

The statement also said anyone who destroys an allied tank, armored personnel carrier or artillery would be awarded 15 million dinars, or about $8,000 by the unofficial exchange rate. Fighting the enemy was a duty, the statement said. Anybody who failed to fight would be considered “cursed,” and violators would not be treated leniently.

Iraqi satellite television showed brief footage of a smiling Saddam in military uniform chairing a meeting it said was held Sunday with his top aides.

In a separate announcement, a broadcaster for Iraqi state radio read a decree by the Iraqi leader that two female suicide bombers be awarded posthumously the medal of the Al-Rafdin — or “The Two Rivers” — the nation’s highest decoration, and that their families be given 50 million dinars — about $28,000 — each.

The attack last week in western Iraq killed three U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint 80 miles from the Syrian border.

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