GOLD AND DOLLARS SMUGGLED OUT OF IRAQ – as insurgency escalates

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The Islamic Army in Iraq last Sunday, in a videotape, claimed responsibility for an attack with an explosive device against a US foot patrol in the area of Al-Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the residents of Al-Karabilah, near the city of Al-Qaim (near Syrian border), have condemned the US occupiers over the killing of civilians.

The Al-Qaim denied any presence of fighters in their areas that were targeted by US air attacks, in which a number of houses were damaged.

At a time when the US army has denied any civilian casualties, a source at Al-Qaim Hospital said three Iraqis were wounded in these attacks.

The US forces announced Saturday that they killed more than 40 fighters in Al-Anbar after these forces dropped seven high-precision bombs on positions in the area.

The Iraqi resistance is undeterred by the stepping up of searches and raids by the US-led occupation forces and their puppets.

In the north of the country, last Sunday, in Al-Sharqat, south of Mosul, a truck driver and his assistant were killed in a bomb explosion in the midst of a convoy of trucks transporting supplies to the US troops.

In Al-Siniyah, west of Baiji, three Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a bomb explosion that targeted their patrol.

Kurdish security officials said that four Kurds affiliated with the Ansar al-Islam group were arrested when a mosque was stormed in the Kurdish area of Al-Ruhaymawah north of Kirkuk.

In Samarra, western Iraq, four members of the puppet Rapid Deployment Force were wounded when gunmen attacked their vehicle in the city centre.

During a raid and search campaign in the capital, Baghdad, and the nearby suburbs, a force from the Iraqi Interior Ministry said it had arrested more than 100 Iraqis, 11 in Al-Madain, southeast of Baghdad.

The detainees were charged with possessing weapons and helping the armed groups. Light weapons and ammunition were seized during the campaign.

Meanwhile, social and political figures, as well as tribal chieftains, have held a conference in the province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, to discuss the current political situation in Iraq, especially the drafting of the constitution.

The conference was part of the jockeying for position in a new puppet Iraqi government, amid fears of splitting the country into federal divisions.

During the conference, held in the city of Baquba, a paper that sought to influence the Sunni Arabs’ participation in writing the constitution was proposed.

The paper pertains to the call of Salih al-Mutlaq, elected president of this conference, to unify three adjacent provinces in order to have the veto right, as granted by the State Administration Law handed down by former US occupation administrator, Paul Bremer.

He said the veto will be used against the draft constitution, hoped to be put to referendum on 15 August, should there be any objections to any of its articles.

Al-Mutlaq warned: ‘The three provinces will vote against the constitution if it does not guarantee Iraq’s unity.’

He said: ‘The attendees pledged to work on this if they found that the constitution would lead to partitioning Iraq, or if its articles did not meet their aspirations.’

Asked which three provinces, Al-Mutlaq added: We began with Mosul (in northern Iraq) and today it is Diyala.

‘Al-Anbar (western Iraq) people will hold a conference, and so will the people of Salah-al-Din (northern Iraq). Afterwards we will expand southwards to the southern provinces.’

The agenda of the conference was not limited to the issue of writing the constitution and taking part in the process; Iraq’s unity and getting rid of sectarianism were prominent issues the organisers identified as the basis for building ‘a free, sovereign and unified Iraq’.

Local observers said these conferences always call for unity and show the occupier that Iraq is non-sectarian and cannot be divided.

Meanwhile Iraqi border officials have revealed that the Iraqi Central Bank had issued new instructions on the ceiling of amounts Iraqis and expatriates crossing the Iraqi borders are allowed to bring in.

These instructions were applied as of last Sunday with the aim of preventing the smuggling of currencies and gold from and to Iraq.

The Iraqi official said that a traveller is allowed to bring in $10,000 only and to have no more than 100,000 Iraqi dinars in his possession as expenses for travelling and residence.

Amounts in excess of this are confiscated and returned to Iraq or the Central Bank in order to control the flow of Iraqi currency to the outside and to avoid causing bottlenecks on the local currency market.

Customs officers have found over the past period, millions of dollars with individuals who tried to smuggle them abroad.

The last such amount was five million dollars belonging to a certain individual, said the officers, revealing that some of the Iraqi puppets are getting out while they can.

The $5m were found in secret compartments inside a vehicle for travellers, hidden there in preparation for taking them to some neighbouring countries.

The individuals involved in the case have been referred to current puppet Iraqi authorities to be legally prosecuted.

Iraqi officials said imposing ceilings on amounts taken out of Iraq became necessary because of currency smuggling operations that have increased of late.

This increase was evident in the amounts that were found, especially in neighbouring border centres.

This prompted Iraqi authorities to take this step in order to protect and prevent the smuggling of Iraq’s money.

Official sources said that the value of gold jewellery taken out of Iraq has also been fixed to be no more than that required for personal use, without exceeding this amount as was the case in the past.

They claimed these measures would curb gold smuggling operations, especially at Iraqi border centres that lacked modern detection equipment for this purpose.

Iraqi customs officials were able to impose control over the past days because of the new measures taken on the traffic of currencies and gold jewellery from and to Iraq.

Iraqi border officials said that cooperation was continuing with the Jordanian side on these measures through direct coordination.

The aim is to report such attempts and prevent their recurrence on the Jordanian-Iraqi borders through direct contact with relevant authorities in order to quickly expose all smuggling attempts.