Baghdad In Chaos -
Shopkeepers Fire On Looters

Shopkeepers in central Baghdad opened fire for the first time on looters, as the city descended into chaos, an AFP correspondent reported.
In two separate incidents, shopkeepers armed with assault rifles, pistols or iron bars opened fire on groups trying to ransack their shops.
Twenty-five people were admitted to Baghdad's Al-Kindi hospital after suffering gunshot wounds in clashes during looting, hospital sources told AFP, although it was unclear if they were wounded in these incidents.
In the al-Rasafi market, merchants fired pistols in the air outside a seven-storey garment store, while at the al-Arabi market shopkeepers fired Kalashnikov rifles toward approaching looters.
Young people were also seen with iron bars running after potential thieves.
"We want the law to rule and if the Americans don't defend us then we'll defend ourselves with our own weapons," said Khazen Hussein.
Baghdad has seen widespread looting since US troops rolled in Wednesday and the two-and-half-decade authority of Saddam Hussein crumbled.
Also Friday an official from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a hospital visited by an ICRC team in Baghdad was in a "catastrophic" state.
"The situation is chaotic and catastrophic," ICRC medical coordinator Peter Tarabula told AFP at Al-Kindi hospital, one of the biggest medical centers in Baghdad.
The hospital was looted after Saddam Hussein's authority crumbled Wednesday and US troops rolled into central Baghdad.
It was the first time in several days that the ICRC had inspected a hospital here amid the uncertain security situation in the Iraqi capital.
The hospital in the east of the city has been ransacked and all staff have fled with the exception of two doctors who administer first aid but do not carry out operations.
All patients have left the hospital, one of Baghdad's largest, and Shiite fighters from the southern city of Najaf under the leadership of Sheikh Abbas al-Zubaidi have set up camp there.
US Marines occupied checkpoints throughout the city, after a night of heavy looting, in which ministries were set aflame and gangs of looters ransacked official buildings and the luxury homes of Saddam's relatives.
US troops, who say they are still involved in a military campaign and do not have the capaciity to deal with maintaining law and order, have not been intervening in the looting.
Scenes of chaos and near anarchy prompted UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Thursday to demand the United States and Britain to respect their international obligations as occupying forces and maintain order.
A suicide attack in Baghdad late Thursday killed one US soldier and wounded four, and US troops continued to encounter stiff pockets of resistance, proving that while Saddam's regime may have crumbled, the city is still not secure.
The city's mosques prepared for the first Muslim prayers since US forces seized control of the Iraqi capital after the collapse of Saddam's regime.
West of the capital, US forces flattened the house of Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, in an airstrike, but US officials did not saay whether Barzan or anyone else had been killed in the attack.
The fate of Saddam himself continued to be as much a mystery as ever, with still no evidence as to whether or not he was killed in a devastating bombing on Monday, targeting him and his two sons.
But US Secretary of State Colin Powell said whether Saddam was alive or dead was immaterial:
"Where he is as an individual I don't know, but it really doesn't make any difference any more. The regime has been brought down and the Iraqi people are now facing a brighter future," Powell told Indonesia's Metro TV.
A tip that Saddam was hiding in a Baghdad mosque led to a firefight between marines and Saddam loyalists on Thursday.
With focus shifting to the reconstruction of a post-Saddam Iraq, the leaders of France, Germany and Russia were due in Saint Petersburg to discuss how they can influence the aftermath of a war they all fiercely opposed.
Russia, France and Germany -- the main opponents to the US-led war -- have been arguing for the United Nations to play a key role in reconstructing Iraq, something reiterated Friday by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Iraqi opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's top choice for a leading role in post-war Iraq, said the country did not need to be under US occupation right up until a government could be elected two years hence.
"We see no room for US administration and indeed the United States has said they hope to assist Iraqis in forming an interim Iraqi authority," he told the BBC late Thursday.
Syria told US officials it had sealed its border with Iraq to all but humanitarian traffic in response to a flurry of US allegations that Damascus is allowing military equipment and irregular troops to cross into Iraq.
The United States updated its toll from the war, saying 105 US troops had been killed, seven taken prisoners of war and 11 missing.
And in Washington, world finance leaders were to meet to discuss the sputtering global economy that the International Monetary Fund said Thursday had suffered only limited fallout from the war, as well as rebuilding Iraq.




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