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Rumsfeld: Iraq Still 'Dangerous'

U.S. soldiers with their armored vehicles guard a gas-oil separation plant outside the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, Thursday May 1, 2003, after a fuel tanker exploded.
AP
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday that although major fighting in Iraq is over, it would be "a terrible mistake" to assume the war-torn nation is secure.

A day after President Bush went to a U.S. aircraft carrier to proclaim success in ousting President Saddam Hussein, the defense secretary urged caution and said much remains to be done.

"It is dangerous," Rumsfeld said of the situation in Iraq. "There are people who are rolling hand grenades into compounds, there are people who are shooting people and it is not finished."

Almost daily, U.S. troops exchange gunfire with Iraqis, sometimes as a result of anti-American protests. Lawlessness is rampant, in a land abounding with well-armed citizens and divided loyalties.

"The president said that we have moved from period of major military conflict to a period of stabilization," the secretary said. "There will be pockets of resistance. There will be people killed."

In other developments:

  • U.S. forces in Iraq killed three suspected Iraqi paramilitary fighters after a surveillance plane spotted the men trying to load mortar rounds onto two dump trucks from an ammunition storage compound in Saddam's home town of Tikrit.
  • The USS Abraham Lincoln landed in San Diego, ending a 10-month tour of duty for more than 5,000 sailors. Dozens of fathers got their first look at babies born while they were away.
  • U.S-led forces detained three top leaders of Saddam Hussein's regime, including a vice president and a director of weapons development, U.S. officials said Friday. American soldiers also staged a raid in Saddam's hometown, killing one Iraqi and arresting about 20.
  • Newsday reports that when a mob killed a Shiite cleric in Najaf, the CIA lost an operative and up to $13 million. Abdel Majid al-Khoei, who was killed with another cleric, was on the payroll because he was pro-Western. The money has not been found. Police on Friday arrested two people possibly linked to the killings, after gunmen shot automatic weapons and threw grenades outside the city's central shrine, the tomb of Imam Ali.
  • Mr. Bush, in his speech Thursday aboard an aircraft carrier returning from the war, said much still needed to be done in Iraq, including restoring order, establishing a democratic government, tracking down Saddam and his top aides, and finding weapons of mass destruction.
  • Army officials said a solider from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment - whose name was not released - drowned when a tank plunged into a canal.
  • In Baghdad, elation turned to chaos when a large propane tank exploded while people fired guns in the air to celebrate the return of electricity to their neighborhood. U.S. soldiers who arrived in tanks were confronted by an angry crowd complaining that the troops should have done more to help those injured by the explosion.
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell was heading to the Syrian capital of Damascus for "a rather full and candid conversation" with President Bashar Assad and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. He wants Assad to take a long look at the changes in Iraq and among Palestinians and become a force for peace.

    The officials taken into custody — all on the U.S. most-wanted list of 55 regime leaders — were identified as Abdel Tawab Mullah Huweish, director of the Military Industrialization Organization; Taha Muhie-eldin Marouf, a vice president and member of the Revolutionary Command Council, and Mizban Khadr Hadi, another Revolutionary Command Council member who had been an adviser to Saddam since the early 1980s.

    The Military Industrialization Organization oversaw development of Iraq's most lethal weapons and Huweish's detention could add to investigators' knowledge of any programs aimed at producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

    Huweish was listed as No. 16 on the most-wanted list, Hadi was No. 41 and Marouf was No. 42. Eighteen of the 55 officials on the list are now in custody, and another is believed to have been killed in an air strike.

    The U.S. military provided few details about the detention of the three top officials. The Army said Hadi was captured Thursday in Baghdad, but it was not immediately disclosed whether Marouf and Huweish were captured or surrendered.

    No new violence was reported Friday in Fallujah, where seven U.S. soldiers were wounded Thursday in a grenade attack.

    That attack was in apparent retaliation for U.S. gunfire earlier in the week that killed 18 people, according to local hospital officials. U.S. officers said their soldiers were defending themselves after being shot at, while residents said the victims were unarmed protesters.

    Even a leader of the temporary city administration spoke harshly of the U.S. troops in Fallujah, a Baath Party stronghold 30 miles west of Baghdad.

    "After the massacre, we don't believe the Americans came to free us, but to occupy and take our wealth and kill us," said Mohammed Farhan, who is in charge of city security.