BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S.-led forces implored Baghdad's parents Saturday to keep children away from unexploded ordnance and avoid approaching American military vehicles, warning of potential attacks by allies of "the big traitor Saddam Hussein (search)."
The coalition radio station Voice of New Iraq (search), in broadcasts throughout the day, said cooperation would help create a more secure city for both Baghdadis and American troops.
Any "strange objects in the streets" should be avoided because they might explode, the announcer said. "They are war leftovers," she said. There have been scattered reports in recent weeks of children and some adults being wounded by bomb fragments and other live weapons.
U.S. forces are using methods big and small to secure the peace in postwar Baghdad (search). Repeatedly asking for — and securing — Iraqi cooperation is one cornerstone of their strategy.
Tanks and other armored vehicles that mark the American presence in the Iraqi capital are continually drawing civilians, which makes coalition forces nervous.
"Please warn your children not to gather around coalition military vehicles in the streets," coalition radio said. "They may be exposed to the fires of the terrorists and the dirty residue left by the enemy of Iraq and Iraqis, the big traitor Saddam Hussein."
Iraqis were also reminded not to carry weapons and thus "risk their lives."
In the absence of any authoritative voice that reaches most Iraqis, two coalition radio stations — Information Radio, which uses formal Arabic, and Voice of New Iraq, which uses a more colloquial version of the language — are trying to fill the gap.
Still, despite those efforts, few people on the streets of Baghdad knew about U.S. plans for an international military force in three regions of Iraq, with Poland, Britain and the United States each controlling a zone. Those who had heard were unclear on what the division would mean.
"We don't agree to the dividing of Iraq. We were barred from going to the north for years. Now we should have freedom to go where we want. There should be no borders within Iraq," said Tahsin Taher, 37.
Sameer Majid, 42, an electronics shop owner, said he didn't care what U.S.-led forces did as they provided security so he could reopen his store. "It doesn't matter if they're Iraqi, American, Indian — even Jewish. We just want security," he said Saturday.
Meanwhile, the military took steps to protect itself in Baghdad. In a briefing Saturday at the 94th Engineering Battalion, staff members were told U.S. troops had been forbidden to buy drinks or cigarettes from street vendors because of rumors some items had been poisoned or tainted.
Another method of restoring order — putting armed and authorized police officers back on the streets — was scheduled for Sunday.
Some unarmed police have begun reappearing on the streets in recent days, at times joining U.S. soldiers, after the devastating looting and arson that followed the U.S. military's takeover of Baghdad and ouster of Saddam's government.
Baghdad police, who will be armed with pistols, have been asked to return Sunday wearing white shirts instead of their old uniform jackets, and to place the badges that had been on their hats on their breast pockets. That was designed to show that officers were responding to the U.S. officials' call — a break with the old regime.
One possible stumbling block: the resignation Saturday of the American-appointed interim Baghdad police chief, who said he was retiring to make way for younger leaders and spend more time with his family.
Zuhair Abdul Razaq was named interim chief on April 22 by officers from the U.S. Army's 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion. He had been in charge of getting former police officers back to work.
Zuhair, a 36-year veteran of the Baghdad force and the Ministry of the Interior, said he never planned to hold the post for long.
"I am retiring to allow others to be leaders, to make room for them to rebuild the police without corruption," Zuhair said. "I ask all the police forces to help the American forces."
Lt. Col. Alan King, the civilian affairs battalion commander, said the U.S.-led Office of Rehabilitation and Humanitarian Assistance would appoint another interim chief soon. A permanent chief will be appointed by the new government when it takes power, King said.
King said more than 3,000 Iraqi police had already returned to work and dealt with everything from arresting petty criminals to guarding facilities and walking joint patrols with U.S. troops.
In coming days, U.S. forces will begin a training program for the police focusing on human rights, public safety and weapons safety, King said. The officers won't be allowed to patrol on their own until they undergo the training.
The U.S. military command has announced 3,000 to 4,000 additional U.S. military police and infantrymen will enter Baghdad within the week to join 12,000 troops.
Also Saturday, the U.S. military said it had released another 342 Iraqi soldiers captured during the war, bringing to 2,851 the number freed. Another 2,894 were released after the coalition determined they were noncombatants, the military said.
It said about 3,600 prisoners of war remain in detention.