Menu

Iraqi Civilian Militia Carries Out War Game, Paper Says

A people's militia that could be a bulwark in defending Baghdad against any U.S. invasion has carried out a war game designed to confront an enemy force attacking from several directions, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Meanwhile, a team of U.N. arms inspectors operating from a just-opened base in Mosul searched one of the northern city's hospitals. Other teams searched five sites in and around Baghdad and in the southern city of Basra.

At the Baghdad Space Research and Development Center, the arms experts carried out what was publicly one of their most wide-ranging inspections. They filmed people leaving the building and searched them and their cars. Some people at the center -- which works on missile systems -- were clearly angry with the intrusion.

Kamal Aziz, a worker at the Irrigation Ministry, said he had just finished an appointment at the space center and got trapped by the inspectors.

"When we wanted to leave, we were surprised to see them closing the gate. They did not pose any questions but, as we were going outside, they searched us, searched our cars and the documents we were holding. ... This is limiting our freedom," he told reporters.

In the reported war game, the people's militia of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party conducted the drill Saturday in Babil province, directly south of Baghdad, the official daily Al-Iraq said. Militiamen practiced deceiving an attacking enemy and fighting in urban and rural areas, the paper said.

The brief article did not say how many troops took part, nor did it include photographs of the exercise. It quoted a senior Baath party member, Fadhil Mahmoud al-Mishiykhi, as praising the fighters' efficiency and morale in battling a campaign against Iraq launched by the United States and "its Zionist ally" -- meaning Israel.

Late last month, the state-run Iraqi press reported a similar exercise in Babil province, again without giving details. Iraqi officials frequently have claimed any invading force would be confronted not only by troops but by armed citizens defending every city and village in the country.

An editorial in the Baath Party daily Al-Thawra on Sunday accused the United States of trying to solve its "increasing economic problems" by dominating world oil supplies. It called on other nations to join oil-rich Iraq in confronting the Americans.

"The aggressor should be told, "Stop your aggression or else you will face a bold resistance and will be defeated," the paper said.

U.S. officials maintain President Bush has not made a decision to go to war in Iraq and say he has expressed hope that the crisis can be settled peacefully through the U.N. arms experts whose job is to determine whether Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear development program. Iraq maintains it does not.

Weapons inspectors have said Iraq's accounting of its weapons program fails to provide enough evidence to support Baghdad's claims to have destroyed missiles, warheads and chemical agents such as VX nerve gas.

The Bush Administration cited nine areas in which it said Iraq's declaration fails to provide a complete picture of actual weapons holdings, including unaccounted-for thousands of pounds of growth media for producing anthrax and chemical precursors for manufacturing mustard gas.

On Saturday, U.S. Central Command said American and British warplanes dropped 240,000 propaganda leaflets over southern Iraq for the second time in three days, providing radio frequencies that broadcast messages urging Iraqis to oppose Saddam. The cities targeted were Al Amarah and As Samawah, both about 170 miles southeast of Baghdad.

On Sunday, the team of U.N. inspectors in Mosul visited the Ibn Sina Hospital, according to Iraqi officials. The experts in various weapons fields opened a headquarters in the northern city Saturday to broaden the range of their searches, locating temporarily in a hotel flying the blue United Nations flag until a permanent base is created.

In southern Iraq, inspectors checked out the marine science department at Basra University's College of Science. Other teams visited the Saddam graphite factory south of Baghdad and three facilities in the city -- the Seventh of April Co., named for the founding date of the Baath Party; the Al-Basil chemical company; and the Al-Rasheed Military Hospital.

Under U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.N. inspectors must certify Iraq is free of banned weapons before economic sanctions on the country can be lifted. The sanctions were imposed after Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait in 1990.

The Iraqi army was driven out of Kuwait by a U.S.-led international coalition in the ensuing Gulf War, and weapons inspectors have been in the country off and on since. The latest inspection teams arrived Nov. 25 under a new U.N. Security Council resolution that gives them a tough mandate to search any site without warning.