US DISBANDS TIKRIT FORCES – for joining protesters

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The puppet Iraqi Oil Ministry announced Saturday that fire had erupted in the oil tanks of Al-Dawrah Refinery, southern Baghdad, last night.

A ministry spokesman said that mortar shells were fired at the refinery, causing fire to erupt in a gasoline tank.

The teams of firefighters were able to extinguish the fire after three hours work. He added that the explosion did not affect the refinery’s normal production.

The US Army last Saturday decided to dissolve the Rapid Deployment Force belonging to the puppet Iraqi army in Tikrit, the biggest city in Salah-al-Din Governorate in northern Iraq and captured Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s home town.

Iraqi army officers said that the US Army made this decision against the backdrop of charges that this force was involved in demonstrations and violence which took place in Tikrit after the killing of municipal council member Ali Ghalib at the hands of unknown gunmen last week.

The officers said that the force reportedly joined protesters in attacking the police command in the city.

They added that the US Army withdrew weapons and all supplies from the soldiers. Part of the force was incorporated with the police force while the remaining members of the force were given vacations.

Other sources said that Tikrit Governor Hamad Humud decided to suspend work at government agencies until the end of the week due to the extraordinary circumstances prevailing in the city over the past three days.

Elsewhere, witnesses said that The US forces Saturday opened fire at a married couple who were travelling in their personal car from Samarra to Baghdad, causing them to sustain various wounds.

The wounded man denounced the attack, which almost killed him and his wife, at Al-Dubbat intersection leading to the Al-Dulu’yah area.

This rural road is used by passengers heading to Baghdad when the armed forces close off the main road or ban passengers from crossing Samarra Bridge to that area.

Also last Saturday, witnesses said an explosive charge went off when an Iraqi puppet military patrol passed through the centre of Al-Fallujah, in the western Iraqi province of Al-Ramadi, destroying a personnel carrier when fire erupted in the vehicle.

It was not possible to tell the number of casualties because the US and Iraqi forces rushed to cordon off the area and set up checkpoints in search of the perpetrators.

A suicide bomber drove a booby-trapped car towards a joint US-Iraqi patrol which was approaching the eastern exit of Al-Fallujah, last Friday night. As a result, two personnel carriers, one Iraqi and another US, were destroyed in the explosion.

A spokesman at Al-Fallujah Hospital said that two Iraqi soldiers were killed and three others were wounded in the attack; he was unable to specify the total number of casualties.

Meanwhile, US and puppet Iraqi forces launched more raid and search campaigns in areas west of Baghdad.

A Multinational Forces’ statement, said that the operation dubbed Operation Scimitar began last Thursday (7 July) in Al-Zaydan area, southeast of Al-Fallujah, resulting in the arrest of 22 persons.

They added that an Iraqi security force, comprising 100 Iraqi soldiers and 500 US soldiers, took part in the operation which aims to track down militants active in the area.

Announcing Operation Lightning at a press conference last Thursday, puppet Iraqi Interior Minister Baqir Sulagh Jabr claimed that ‘in May, we had 70 car bomb operations while the figure dropped to 40, approximately half the previous figure in June and approximately 10 operations in July’.

He added that ‘160 car bombs were defused and 406 storming operations took place in May.

‘We also have 1,691 prisoners and more than 550 were released for lack of evidence.

‘We have captured 68 arms caches. We confiscated 79 mortars and 1035 missile platforms and missiles.

‘We have also confiscated 113 RPG rockets, 105 hand grenades and 4731 pieces of various types of weapons, including large quantities of TNT.’

Asked about the results of the ‘talks that were held with Gen Casey concerning more than 6,000 Iraqis who are in US prisons’, Minister Jabr said: ‘A committee from the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the coalition forces was formed and this committee will start working very soon. It will investigate each case separately and will release those who are proven not guilty.’

The Interior Ministry was asked can he ease the task of the press by providing them with the necessary information on the activities of the ministry and stop harassing the members of the press as has taken place on many occasions.

Minister Jabr said: ‘I highly value this request for I am a media man and chief editor of a newspaper. But I wish to tell you that some media reports might harm our movement on the ground.’

Asked about the measures the Interior Ministry will adopt to tackle the ‘haphazard arrests of citizens, including members of the National Assembly’, Minister Jabr said: ‘These reports are not accurate.’

He claimed: ‘There are absolutely no indiscriminate arrests.’

He added that ‘only one National Assembly member was arrested by mistake’ after which he was immediately released.

A BBC correspondent asked Minister Jabr to reply by yes or no to a question saying ‘the Egyptian ambassador designate, was he, or had he been attempting to contact militant groups. Was that what he was doing when he was kidnapped on Saturday evening?’

Jabr said: ‘I do not know.’

Asked about reports published in Western media that the Interior Ministry is ‘carrying out explicit human rights violations and that for example, there are prisons where those who are arrested are being tortured’, Minister Jabr said: ‘This was only one paper and not the entire media.’

He claimed to disbelief: ‘We do not have underground prisons. We do not have even ordinary prisons.

‘We have not built any prisons and we do not intend to build prisons. We demolished prisons and there is only one prison that is not under our control, as you know.’

• Meanwhile, the Egyptian Foreign Minister has reacted angrily to statements by puppet Iraqi officials.

Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu-al-Ghayt expressed his astonishment Saturday at a news report attributing statements to Iraqi officials in which they allegedly said that their government was investigating whether Ihab al-Sharif, the assassinated head of the Egyptian diplomatic mission in Baghdad, had been making contacts with insurgents.

Al-Ghayt said such statements should be clarified.

He questioned the timing of such alleged statements at a time when efforts should have been joined in the search for Al-Sharif’s killers, not to mention the grief of Egyptians over the loss of a compatriot serving Iraqi interests.

A serious security move should be undertaken to arrest the killers of Al-Sharif, underlined the Egyptian top diplomat.

The French news agency (AFP) had said it quoted Layth Kubbah, the spokesman for puppet Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, as saying that his government was investigating whether the deceased diplomat had been contacting insurgents in an attempt to find a political solution in Iraq.

Egypt’s assistant foreign minister for Arab Affairs was instructed to discuss the alleged Iraqi government statements with Iraq’s charge d’affaires in Cairo.