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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Fedayeen fighters
US soldiers
In Iraq, the hunt for fighters loyal to Saddam Hussein, begun in the towns and villages north of Baghdad, and then extended to the Capital itself.

But Operation Desert Scorpion couldn't prevent the ambush of two separate US convoys with rocket propelled grenades wounding a total of ten soldiers.

It reinforced the American Intelligence view that a network of Fedayeen fighters and Baath party members still exists.

Our correspondent in Iraq, David Loyn, went in search of Saddam supporters.


DAVID LOYN:
Last week, America launched Operation Peninsula Strike. This week it's Desert Scorpion. But still Saddam's Fedayeen fighters come. This was the aftermath of one of three attacks in the last 24 hours. The tactic which slowed the advance in the early days of war has come back to haunt the Americans. Small hit-and-run units of up to six men making suicidal attacks on convoys on the open road. In Baghdad, we met a man who said he was a Fedayeen soldier. He claimed he'd kill the next American he saw.

FEDAYEEN FIGHTER:
TRANSLATION:

I have taken the fuse out for safety but here it is. When you need it, you can screw the fuse in. Pull the pin and throw it.

DAVID LOYN:
We showed the pictures to soldiers who have considerable experience against the Fedayeen.

STAFF SGT DILLARD JOHNSON:
I see everybody that wants to shoot at Americans or martyr themselves as a threat. But I see him as the minority not the whole. You can't please everybody. You have a few sore heads that will continue to think the way they are and there is nothing we can do.

STAFF SGT JOHN WILLIAMS:
I'd say they are more desperate than organised.

DAVID LOYN:
But the Fedayeen say their organisation is intact.

FEDAYEEN FIGHTER:
TRANSLATION:

America thinks they have entered Baghdad very easily and the people are saluting them but they don't know what we have in store for them. We have a big surprise for them in July.

DAVID LOYN:
Backing up this threat, the Fedayeen fighter carried documents calling for a jihad, a holy war. They mention the new head of the US administration in Iraq, Paul Bremer by name. So it must have been printed recently.

TRANSLATION:
The American dogs have started spreading divisions. It is the old slogan of divide and rule. You'll see how they will cause conflicts between Sunni and Shia, Kurds and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, so you fight each other in your homes.

DAVID LOYN:
There's a call for Saddam's supporters to stay in touch.

TRANSLATION:
Contact each other because you know each other very well. We swear by God that we have fighters with arms of solid rock, hearts like mountains, lovers of paradise and seekers after death.

DAVID LOYN:
With mass graves everywhere, the documents admit to some past crimes.

TRANSLATION:
Organise your ranks and support the mujahideen so that people forgive what some of you did to them.

DAVID LOYN:
There was a call to the mosques to spread the word about one-day strikes to paralyse the country.

TRANSLATION:
This is the duty of the clergymen in our great Iraq. They should use Friday prayers to close the country down.

DAVID LOYN:
The Islamic links do not spread to Al-Qaeda.

FEDAYEEN FIGHTER:
TRANSLATION:

Bin Laden is a hero, but we don't have anything to do with him. Neither Bin Laden nor anyone else. He fights his battles and we are fighting our own battles.

DAVID LOYN:
In a land where there's been no politics for a generation, the mosque provides the only continuing focal point. One of the leading preachers in Baghdad is not surprised there are young fighters carrying grenades in the streets.

SHEIKH AHMED AL-KUBAYSI:
TRANSLATION:

This young man is defending his homeland. He might be wrong in the timing, but the concept is right.

DAVID LOYN:
In this mosque, the scars of war are a reminder of the continuing presence of Americans. The preacher we spoke to is a Wahabi, the sect which produced the Taliban. He has moderated his early call for an immediate armed uprising against the Americans but it's only on hold. He believes a jihad, or holy war, will be necessary for Iraq.

SHEIKH AHMED AL-KUBAYSI:
TRANSLATION:

Jihad has already been declared from the moment of occupation. From the day the foreigner entered our land, jihad was declared.

DAVID LOYN:
Do you think there's a common cause between the former government forces and Islamic leaders?

SHEIKH AHMED AL-KUBAYSI:
If you knew the nature of the Arabs and the Iraqis in general, you would not ask this. There are many basic things we agree on, like kicking the occupier out.

DAVID LOYN:
Saddam Hussein used Islam like everything else, to his own advantage, building this mosque of Ozymandian dimensions. Around the main central mosque hall, another eight mosques are being built on a huge industrial building site. And this wasn't the biggest. A mile away, Saddam had started to build what would have been the biggest mosque in the world.

We got hold of another remarkable document from a different source from the first set. This one is signed by the head of Iraqi intelligence himself and it appears to instruct Saddam's agents as to what to do after he falls. One of the things Saddam loyalists are asked to do is to join Islamic organisations. The rest of this is a check list of things that have happened in Iraq since the war. And what gives it a chilling authenticity is that it's dated January 23rd, two months before the war began. That means whether he's dead or alive, Saddam Hussein could be behind the continuing disruption.

Only last week, a huge fire followed damage to an oil pipeline which locals said was sabotage. Was this according to the plan? It was the kind of act ordered in the January document. While the Americans still search for thousands of missing weapons, the document called for Saddam's men to buy them where they can. It also said power and water plants should be hit. The damage in looting here has been one of the biggest social problems since the war. The ferocity of the looting and the burning in Baghdad which followed the fall of Saddam surprised many people. According to the document that we've seen, it too was ordered by the Iraqi intelligence chief in January.

I showed it to a prominent newspaper editor.

ISMAIL ZAYER:
I think it's genuine. I believe it's really what happened. People can loot some places but why do you have to burn it? Set on fire something else. It's organised in a degree where everyone has a suspicion that it is done by a plan of the Ba'ath Party.

DAVID LOYN:
60 newspapers have sprung up in Baghdad since regime change. A bewildering kaleidoscope of opinions jostling to be heard. This energy is not yet matched by political power, which could play into the hands of Islamists and Saddam's forces if they can exploit the power vacuum.

ISMAIL ZAYER:
Iraq has something like 220,000 members of the security. Where are they now? A lot of them are free, still organised, they have special hiding places, they have weapons, they have means, all kinds of stuff. They have money.

DAVID LOYN:
And against that, Iraq's nation builders are taking losses, losing a man nearly every day in the last fortnight. The men of Charlie Company of the 37 Cavalry, have been at the sharp end of this war since the beginning, and are still fighting. There might be 20,000 or 30,000 people like that across the country, they could cause you a headache for a while?

STAFF SERGEANT JOHN WILLIAMS:
All their attacks have been futile. You talk about one or two deaths over an area the size of Iraq. You have ten times more deaths in Chicago, I'd say. We hate to lose lives, but over all, the military success has been outstanding for loss of lives versus what they've done.

STAFF SERGEANT DILLARD JOHNSON:
We are killing them. We may have lost a few of our comrades, maybe one a day. When they attack, they are losing between 15 and 30 a night, so we are winning the numbers game. They will be out of people before we will.

DAVID LOYN:
There may be high morale here, but there could be a political price to pay in the States as well. If America continues to lose soldiers at this rate, the total could top 400 dead by the time the presidential election comes round next year. Do they have the political will to sustain casualties at that rate?

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Loyn
reported on a network of Fedayeen fighters and Baath party members that still exists in Iraq.
Links to more Archive stories are at the foot of the page.


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