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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 August, 2003, 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK
Police 'restoring order in Iraq'

By Jonathan Head
BBC, Baghdad

The former New York police chief who has been put in charge of rebuilding Iraq's police force says he is making good progress in controlling crime.

Iraqi police after an attack on the Falluja station
Iraq's police still face great challenges
Bernard Kerik - who was appointed to run the interior ministry four months ago - said police had recently broken up four gangs involved in kidnapping Iraqi civilians for ransom.

The failure to curb crime since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime has been one of the strongest criticisms made against the US-led coalition in Iraq.

Brushing aside criticism that crime is still out of control in Iraq, Mr Kerik listed areas in which the newly-reformed police force was making headway.

In particular, he highlighted kidnapping for ransom, a practice used by the Saddam regime which has continued after its downfall.

Mr Kerik, the former New York police commissioner credited with cutting crime in that city, described one case in which the Iraqi police, without the support of US forces, smashed an armed kidnapping gang.

He said four hostages, including an eight-year-old boy, were released, and eight suspects detained.

Bernard Kerik
For the most part, it's getting much, much better
Bernard Kerik
He showed graphic photographs of torture inflicted on some of the hostages by the gang leader, whom he described as a close associate of Saddam Hussein's inner circle.

In other areas, Mr Kerik insisted the fight against crime was succeeding.

"The markets and shops are now bustling, there are people out after hours where four weeks ago, no-one was there," he said.

"We're up over 5,000 police officers back on duty, actively working in the streets, and I'd say for the most part, it's getting much, much better."

But the heavily-armed guards who accompany Mr Kerik everywhere are vivid proof of just how insecure Iraq still is, even for the police.

Yesterday rockets were fired at the main police station in Baghdad and in the town of Falluja just west of the city, injuring several people.

Last month, seven new police recruits were killed in a bomb attack at a graduation ceremony.



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