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Last Updated:  Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 02:49 GMT 03:49 UK
US aims to end Baghdad chaos
With the fire from a burning warehouse set ablaze by looters in the distance, an Iraqi woman and her child cross the Tigris river into west Baghdad
The fires in Baghdad are caused by looters, not US bombs
The United States says it is taking measures to restore law and order in Baghdad, as widespread looting continues.

The US State Department said 1,200 police and judicial experts would soon be sent to Iraq to advise on how to set up a new police force.

And US troops in Baghdad have called on the capital's police to return to work.

The Iraqi capital is in the grip of civil disorder three days after US troops seized control, with looters raiding shops, homes and even hospitals.

Doctors and nurses at the al-Kindi hospital have taken up arms to protect themselves.

They don't even know what it's used for
A doctor, who stood up to looters

A US commander leading efforts to restore civic order in Baghdad told the BBC marines were now patrolling key hospitals to prevent further looting.

"We are trying to get the Baghdad police to come back to work and do their jobs," Colonel Peter Zarcone told the Newsnight programme.

Speaking from Baghdad, he said troops had put out messages over the airwaves to try to contact police officials and had already spoken to "approximately three individuals".

US forces say they are setting up an operations centre at the Palestine Hotel and calling on professional people to help run public services.

However, BBC correspondents in Baghdad say the presence of US troops does little to deter the armed mobs.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has denied Iraq was falling into chaos.

"Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," he told reporters.

Residents of the Karbala neighbourhood of Baghdad ride on the hood of a truck full of goods they confiscated from looters, 11 April 2003
Some Baghdad residents are trying to stop the looting
"I don't think there is anyone in those pictures or any human being who does not prefer to be free and recognise that you have passed through a transition period like this and accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom."

But the International Committee of the Red Cross says it is profoundly alarmed by the situation in Baghdad, which it says is verging on anarchy.

The organisation, reminding the US and Britain of their legal responsibility to protect civilians and essential services, says looting has left the capital with virtually no functioning hospitals.

Vital medical equipment such as heart monitors and incubators have been stolen and even the laboratories ransacked - centrifuges and microscopes smashed.

United Nations aid agencies say the humanitarian situation is worsening and the civil disorder means it is not safe for them to send their workers in to help civilians.

The country's cultural heritage is under threat too. AFP news agency says part of Iraq's largest archaeological museum has been looted, and ancient artefacts destroyed and stolen.

The BBC's David Willis in Baghdad says a small minority of the population is carrying out the looting and most residents are hunkered down behind locked doors in fear.

However, he says that the mood on the streets is a sense that "the Iraqi regime had stolen from the people for years and now they are taking it back".

The BBC's Carole Mitchell
"The medical system is on the brink of collapse"

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