Iraqi police placed in the firing line without weapons

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The five policemen standing on the roof of the Albiya station had one pistol between them. They have not been issued with rifles or body armour. Three of them did not even have any documents to show they were in the police. All of them, however, have come repeatedly under fire.

The five policemen standing on the roof of the Albiya station had one pistol between them. They have not been issued with rifles or body armour. Three of them did not even have any documents to show they were in the police. All of them, however, have come repeatedly under fire.

Albiya has gained the reputation as a Fort Apache of Baghdad, one of the most bombed, mortared, rocketed and shot at police stations in the city. The last two blasts killed 38 policemen, injured 110 and demolished a part of the building. In recognition of the dangers the Americans sent some more weapons - the 215 officers now have one-third of a semi-automatic rifle each. These are the men, the Iraqi police and army, that the US and British government insist will take over security in Iraq, combating the ferocious rebellion, allowing their troops to be pulled out. They are already doing the bulk of the dying for the occupation forces, as last weekend's massacre of 49 recruits highlighted.

What marked out those particular killings, apart from their brutality and the numbers involved, was the public accusation by Iyad Allawi, Iraq's interim Prime Minister, that gross negligence by US forces had led to the men's deaths.

He was joined by Roj Nouri Shawis, the interim Vice-President, and Tawfiq al-Yasseri, the head of the interim parliament's security committee, demanding to know why the Americans training the recruits had sent them unarmed and unprotected to their deaths.

The fact that these men, who owe their positions to the US authorities, are so openly critical, is an indication of the growing anger here about the perceived indifference of the Americans to the horrendous rate of casualties among Iraqi security forces.

Officials also complain that in their rush to get in recruits, allowing the Bush administration to say how the security forces are being boosted, American officials are making little or no background checks. The dead cadets were almost certainly betrayed by colleagues, insurgents who had infiltrated the forces.

At Albiya, Col Khaldoun Abdullah could hardly contain his mirth at American and British claims that his forces were ready and equipped to take over fighting the insurgents.

"I keep on reading and hearing that we have been trained and we have been given the arms necessary by the Americans. But I somehow seemed to have missed all this," he said.

"I have officers going out to face men armed with the latest guns - call them terrorists, the resistance, what you will - unarmed. It is not just they who are in danger, but their families get attacked too. I have repeatedly asked for more protection, but hardly anything ever happens. It is not just the Americans, no one from our government came to visit this station after we had so many people killed."

An officer came in, almost fell over attempting to execute an exaggerated salute, and then left after delivering some papers. "Look at that man, a new recruit sent to me," sighed the Colonel. "He is not so bad I suppose, just an idiot.

"But we have had people sent here who I would not trust at all. I have discovered that the Americans have made no checks on these men. Do you wonder why police stations and army barracks get blown up?"

Sergeant Abdul Razak, 42, showed a bullet scar on his left leg. "This is not unusual, many of the men have been shot. Problem is that they have little to shoot back with." He waved at a file of police cars, and battered pick-ups, about to roll out on patrol. "None of these is bulletproof. You won't see Americans driving around Baghdad in them, of course, and the same with the foreign contractors. They have these armoured Toyota Land Cruisers which cost about $200,000 [£110,000]."

The roof of the police station has four submachine-guns on each corner after a spate of snipings and mortar attacks. But Jabbar Kadhan's main concern was that he has not got a police warrant card despite months of trying. "There were two of us answering a call the other day, we were in plain clothes. We came to an American checkpoint and they would not let us go past. We said we were policemen, and they said 'where is your ID?' Of course we did not have any, and they would not believe the reason," he said.

"Don't do that too often," warned Sergeant Amer Jassem. "You are lucky you weren't shot, you know what the Americans are like."

Comments