"4" of Clubs Out of Play – Another Regime Leader Captured; Coalition Forces Transition

By Jim Garamone, AFPS

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2003 – Iraqi Kurds handed over the Ba’ath Party regional command chairman for East Baghdad to coalition special operations forces yesterday, U.S. Central Command officials said this morning.

Samir abd al-Aziz al-Najim was the "4" of clubs in the deck of cards issued to coalition troops to identify the 55 "most wanted" members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

"He … is believed to have first-hand knowledge of the Ba’ath Party central structure," Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, vice chief of operations at U.S. Central Command, said during a briefing from Qatar today. "The coalition is pursuing other regime leaders."

To date, on April 16, coalition special operations forces captured Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and "5" in the card deck. On April 14, coalition forces captured Abu Abbas, a terrorist responsible for the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. Another Hussein half-brother, Watban Ibrahim Hasan, was captured April 13 in northern Iraq reportedly trying to flee to neighboring Syria.

And coalition air forces struck a compound in early April, believed to house Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein. Known as "Chemical Ali," he is suspected of ordering the 1988 gas attacks that killed thousands of Kurds in the northern Iraqi village of Halabja.

Coalition land forces are expanding the security zones in the country. The Army’s newly arrived 4th Infantry Division encountered paramilitary resistance as it moved north between Taji and Samarra. "In the engagement, the coalition destroyed eight technical vehicles and captured over 30 enemy prisoners," Brooks said.

The arrival of the fresh forces allows coalition commanders to transition from combat operations to stability operations. Brooks said these commanders can "consolidate some of the forces on the battlefield, like the lst Marine Expeditionary Force, and assign them to an area where they can do more detailed work in establishing conditions of security and stability."

Brooks noted that the changes will continue and take a few days to accomplish. The units are conducting what the military calls a relief in place. "One unit arrives to take over from one in place, and then it can move to its next destination," he explained. "And there may be subsequent relief at the location they’re going to."

The lack of electrical power remains a core problem for coalition humanitarian efforts, but progress is being made daily, Brooks said. Near the Hadithah Dam, coalition forces and Iraqis restored electricity to the surrounding community. In the northern towns of Irbil, Dohuk and Sulimaniyah, there is sufficient fuel on hand to run electric powerplants for more than 40 days.

"Returning full power to Baghdad will require more electrical managers and technicians to come back to work," the general said. Brig. Gen. Steven Hawkins and members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have formed a team to focus on the efforts of power restoration, and they began assessments of several powerplants in Baghdad.

"The team met with power board members and technicians, encouraging them to return to work and to restore power to the people of Baghdad," Brooks said. "As of today, in Baghdad, six diesel-operated plants are online and generating power, and the south Baghdad powerplant has resumed operations."

Medical assistance is increasing and becoming more effective, Brooks said. Coalition forces and some humanitarian organizations are working to ensure hospitals have the supplies they need to operate.

In some cases, he pointed out, this means redistributing captured enemy supplies. In others, it means bringing in supplies from out of the country.

"I would add that there are site surveys that have been conducted by Jordanian and Saudi Arabian medical teams that have occurred over the last several days, and more humanitarian supplies and medical supplies are flowing in all the time," Brooks said.

Kuwait and Qatar are among the countries donating supplies and expertise to the effort.