Latest News

U.S. offers reward for information about attacks on police, soldiers

BAGHDAD, Iraq—The U.S.-led administration running Iraq will pay $2,500 for information leading to the arrests of insurgents who kill American soldiers and Iraqi police, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik announced Tuesday.

"I urge the Iraqi people to come forward so we can take these people off the streets," said Kerik, the senior adviser to Iraq's Interior Ministry.

A $25 million reward already has been offered for information about Saddam Hussein, and $15 million bounties are on the heads of his two sons. The extension of reward money for intelligence about attacks on soldiers and police officers is the latest attempt to stop the growing threat of urban guerrilla war.

On Tuesday, two U.S. soldiers were injured in Baghdad when a bomb was dropped from a bridge onto a passing convoy. Two others were injured when their military vehicle hit a land mine. Three more were injured in Kirkuk when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at a convoy.

L. Paul Bremer, the head of the provisional authority, said Tuesday that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might have encouraged the recent spate of attacks, but there was no evidence of centralized command and control. The attacks in recent weeks were "conducted by professionals" with military training using similar methods of operation, Bremer said.

Saddam, he said, "may be alive but he's not going to come back. ... I think the noose is going to tighten around his neck as we begin to get people cooperating with us on the awards program."

But most Iraqis interviewed Tuesday didn't think the rewards would help much.

"If the Americans offered us electricity and water and jobs, then nobody will attack them," said Hyder Malik Shehab, the owner of a small shop that sells dates, an Iraqi delicacy. "Those who attack are not Saddam's followers or Baathists. They are people who are fed up with the conditions."

Shehab said that when Saddam was in power, he kept his shop open until 1 or 2 a.m. Now he is afraid he might be robbed. "You close at 9, when it is dark," he said. "After 10 you will hear the shooting."

However, Mohammed Na'aim, 26, said he welcomed the presence of American troops and thought some people would be inspired by the $2,500 reward money to pass on information.

Still, it isn't easy to get information to the Americans. Iraq has no regular phone service, and the U.S. military has few translators.

"There is no way to communicate. We don't know English and they don't know Arabic," Na'aim said.

Attackers have killed 29 American and six British soldiers since President Bush declared major combat over May 1. The attacks had been focused in outlying cities—such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Balad, but in recent weeks, rocket-propelled grenade attacks, remote-controlled bombs and sniper fire have become more common in Baghdad as well.

American soldiers frequently have been the targets, but Iraqi police officers, Iraqis who work for the electricity commission and translators have been attacked as well.

Seven recruits to a U.S.-trained Iraqi police force were killed Saturday by a remote-controlled bomb in Ramadi, about 60 miles west of Baghdad. An American civil affairs officer was shot in the head at Baghdad University on Sunday while drinking a Pepsi. An Iraqi woman who was a high-ranking manager for Baghdad's electricity distribution plant was shot at close range in front of her home two weeks ago.

U.S. military officials say they are gathering information about how the attacks are planned. In most cases, it appears that a spotter keeps watch on the movement of military vehicles from nearby bushes, cars or buildings.

"On some occasions we have prevented attacks by observing people acting suspiciously on the side of the road or on medians. Then you'll see that they are near a battery and wires. We've got some indication that they are using primitive signals, like hand signals or old two-way phones, to communicate,' " said Maj. William D. Thurmond, a spokesman for the U.S.-led administration.

To help stop attacks from cars, officials on Tuesday gave Iraqis until July 20 to get rid of tinted car windows or face having their cars impounded. Dark windows are popular because they help repel glare and heat.

Ahmed Ibrahim, the Iraqi who heads Baghdad's Police Academy, said the attacks on police had strengthened their resolve.

"The attacks in Ramadi, some may think that such deeds and actions may intimidate us, but the Iraqi spirit is very strong," he said.

In other developments, Bremer said an Iraqi governing council would take shape in a few weeks, a group of 25 to 30 people who will appoint ministers and form a constitutional convention.

"I have given my word that the coalition authority will not undertake major policy initiatives without prior consultation with the governing council," Bremer said. But he stressed that his administration will have authority until a sovereign Iraqi government is in place.


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.