11/20/2004

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. troops see enemy all around as Mosul simmers

Reuters AlertNet - U.S. troops see enemy all around as Mosul simmers: "Ten days ago, groups of up to 50 insurgents stormed through the city, attacking convoys and police stations, nine of which were overrun and looted of weapons, uniforms and vehicles. Several of them were then set alight and others were blown up.

On and off for the next 48 hours, U.S. forces fought gun battles with rebels across the city, trying to suppress the revolt. Iraqi national guards helped out, but not the Iraqi police -- 3,200 of Mosul's 4,000-strong force deserted.

TENSION

Since then, the security situation has been 'tenuous and tense', according to Brigadier General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. forces in the city, Iraq's third largest.

The military command is still trying to piece together exactly what happened and why, particularly in terms of police training since many of the officers just dropped their guns and ran the moment they were challenged by insurgents.

In his patrol on Saturday, Rodriguez stopped by two police stations demolished by rebels with explosives and spoke to neighbours, trying to figure out what went on.

Most refused to speak, but those that did said they were happy the police were gone. When they were there, said Abeet Ranam, a storeowner who lives alongside one destroyed station, there were always problems -- rebel attacks and car bombs.

'Now, without them, things are calm,' said the father of four, shrugging his shoulders.

But someone has to provide security to the city of two million. U.S. troops, around 8,000 of whom are based around Mosul, can't do it alone. They've drafted in support from the Iraqi National Guard and an elite police commando unit.

The commando unit has had some success, detaining more than 20 insurgents in raids in the old city of Mosul on Friday.

But there are concerns among residents about the presence of the national guard, many of whom are Kurds from outside the city and formerly members of the Kurdish peshmerga army.

Mosul's population has a high percentage of Kurds, but the majority is still Arab, and there are deep suspicions about new Kurds -- military or otherwise -- coming into the city.

'Nobody wants them here, it's a problem,' said Salem, a Yazidi who is a translator for U.S. forces.

Many of the people of Mosul say they don't want the police, don't want the National Guard and don't much want the Americans. As Rodriguez and his platoon drove away from one ruined police station a shot rang out. It was from a nearby mosque. "

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