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News Transcript


Presenter: Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt and Dan Senor
Wednesday, March 10, 2004 10:03 a.m. EST

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing from Iraq

(Participating were Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, and Dan Senor, senior advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority.)

Senor: Good afternoon. I just have one announcement on Ambassador Bremer's schedule, and then General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.

Ambassador Bremer spent part of the day visiting with General Odierno and the 4th ID before their rotation. He traveled there and spent about three or four hours in meetings with the 4th ID today.

General Kimmitt.

Kimmitt: Thank you.

Good afternoon. The area of operations remains relatively stable. Over the past week there have been an average of 18 engagements daily against coalition military, just under four attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and just under three attacks daily against Iraqi civilians.

In the past 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,482 patrols, 31 offensive operations, 11 raids; captured 78 anti-coalition suspects, and released three detainees.

In the northern zone of operations, last night coalition forces conducted five offensive operations in northeastern Mosul to disrupt a terrorist cell with possible connections to Ansar al-Sunna. Three of the five primary targets were detained, as were nine of their associates.

Two days ago, three Iraqi civilians were killed and one wounded when they were stopped in northern Mosul at a traffic control point. After resisting questioning and opening fire on an Iraqi police officer, one of the Iraqis in the car attempted to throw a grenade at the checkpoint, but the grenade exploded in the car, killing two of the occupants and wounding two more who were taken to the hospital under guard. One died yesterday of wounds. Further research found that the four individuals were directly involved in the assassination of a city council member, Tillal al-Khalidi (ph), in November of 2003.

There were two attacks yesterday in Iraqi police stations. In the first incident, the Balbuto (ph) police station in central Mosul was attacked with small arms fire and grenades. Three Iraqi police and four officials were wounded. All of the wounded were treated and released from local hospitals.

In the second attack, drive-by shooters attacked a police station of Biaj (ph) two days ago. Police on duty returned fire, wounded the attacker. He was taken into custody and placed in a local hospital.

In the north-central zone of operations, coalition forces conducted a cordon-and-search yesterday to apprehend individuals suspected of conducting bomb and mortar attacks against coalition forces south of Balad. The unit captured 10 individuals during the raid, to include seven of the nine targets. Whalid al-Ayish (ph), suspected of being the highest-ranking Ba'ath party member in the Tormea area, turned himself in to coalition forces yesterday. Whalid (sp) may have surrendered in order to negotiate the release of his brother who was captured in an earlier raid.

Two days ago, coalition forces conducted a raid near Tikrit. The target were two Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers suspected of conducting anti-coalition activities. Forces captured four individuals, including the two targets.

Yesterday, coalition forces conducted a raid to capture Ahmed Hassan Kaka al-Obedi (ph) near Erbil. Kaka is suspected of being a former Ba'ath party member and coordinator for anti-coalition forces in the Al Tamin province. The target was captured without incident.

In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 569 patrols, 39 escort missions and captured 11 anti-coalition suspects.

Two days ago, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers reported that the imam of the Al Qubasi (sp) Mosque, Ali Hassan Hussein Al-Dhabi (sp), was murdered. Coalition forces sent a patrol to investigate and confirmed that he was shot by four unknown individuals driving a brown BMW or Opel on 7 March.

In the western zone of operations, coalition forces received information from the border police that two males wearing black masks and driving a white four-door Nissan pickup had kidnapped a border policeman in Husbayah (sp). The source helped identify the truck. An OH-58 confirmed its presence at a target location. Soldiers and Marines conducted a cordon-and-search of the target house and captured 10 enemy personnel.

In the central south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 120 patrols, established 47 checkpoints and escorted 46 convoys.

In the southeastern zone of operations, Iraqi police officers last night were engaged with small-arms fire from a mob of approximately 50 personnel in An Nasiriyah. Coalition forces responded to the scene and were at some stage involved in the firefight as well. The Iraqi police withdrew to an NGO compound, and a quick reaction force and an unmanned aerial observer vehicle were launched to assess the situation. The incident resulted in four Iraqi police killed, two Iraqi police wounded, no civilian casualties, and nine Iraqi(s) were arrested. In addition, one coalition soldier was wounded and evacuated to a medical facility.

Senor: And with that, we are happy to take your questions.

Yes, Mark?

Q: Hi, there. Mark from ABC. Could you give us more details on the reports of two civilian contractors and their translator killed in Hillah this morning, please?

Senor: I can confirm that two American citizens and one Iraqi citizen were killed last evening in an attack. The two Americans were CPA officials. The Iraqi citizen was a translator, a subcontractor. This was a targeted act of terrorism, and as such, Ambassador Bremer has requested an FBI team be deployed to lead the investigation, working with the Iraqi police service and the coalition forces. But we believe that this act is under U.S. jurisdiction.

Q: Just to follow up, is it correct that they were attacked by people dressed as Iraqi policemen? And can you give any idea of their seniority?

Senor: Mark, I'm not going to comment at this point on any details. I'll let the investigation play out. There's a lot that has to happen right now. The next of kin has not been notified, so pending the notification of next of kin we will have more information, and then obviously let the investigation proceed.

There were some reports on the wires with some details which I think you're referring to, and not all of those details were correct. So I would be careful in how you all cover this story. The facts are still coming out, and we're going to wait on the investigation.

Yes?

Q: Richard Beeston from the Times. I was wondering if you could bring me up to date with the situation regarding Abu Abbas? In particular, there was meant to be an autopsy, I believe, and I just wanted to find out if that had happened, and also whether the authorities were prepared to allow an independent autopsy and also to release the body so that he could be buried in Palestine.

Senor: The autopsy has not been performed. We have brought a naval officer in to conduct the autopsy, and as soon as the results of the autopsy are known, that will be publicized. We certainly expect to confirm that Mr. Abbas died of natural causes. As to the questions of an independent autopsy, that hasn't been brought up. With regards to the disposition of his body, that's being coordinated now by the State Department, and I'd refer you to the State Department for the determination of that -- of the remains.

Tom. You know, Toms aren't allowed to sit next to one another. It makes my job very difficult. But go ahead.

Q: A question from The New York Times. Even though the incident -- the shooting at Hillah is very recent, do you have any indications yet at all whether it was a target of opportunity or that they had been followed, or that the assailants knew exactly who their victims were?

Senor: We are starting to form views on that, but it's premature for me to comment on it publicly. But it is clear that this was an attack on civilians, an attack on civilians that are officials of the coalition and an Iraqi national that is working with the coalition. And that is an act of terrorism, and we will treat it as such.

The other Tom.

Q: To follow up on your warning about what has been on the wires regarding this incident, some reports are that the individuals were traveling at nighttime, and I was under the impression that such travel at that time was not permitted by employees.

Senor: We have a number of force protection requirements related to travel by CPA officials. I, for obvious reasons, don't want to -- for obvious reasons, I don't want to publicly comment on them to give tips off to people who organize these sorts of attacks.

And as for what actually happened, the details of the incident, Tom, I'm really reluctant at this point to comment on them. There's a lot that has to happen in the next 24 hours. Give me a few days and we'll be able to provide you some more information.

Yes?

Q [Through interpreter.]: There was an attack on Hotel Rashid, on the green zone. Do you know who carried out these attacks up to now? Attacks on the Hotel Al Rashid. Do you know who are the attackers and up to now do you have more information?

Kimmitt: If you're talking about the incident -- (Inaudible.) -- nights ago where a vehicle that had a rocket launcher in the back of it, we don't yet have any determination who committed this act. We have a pretty good idea of what happened, the type of vehicle that was used, the type of weapon systems that was used. But in terms of determining who is responsible for this, we don't have that information yet.

Senor: Rajiv. Oh?

Q [Through interpreter.]: Concerning these terrorist attacks, tell us more.

Kimmitt: Which terrorist attacks?

Q [Through interpreter.]: Is there a plan for you to counter these attacks, terrorist attacks against the green zone?

Kimmitt: Well, we certainly have a plan to counter all terrorist acts throughout the width and breadth of Iraq. Our responsibility does not just happen to end at the green zone, but our responsibility, in coordination and in partnership with the Iraqi security forces, is to prevent terrorism and provide a safe and secure environment throughout the entire country.

You asked the question, what can you tell us about the terrorists, what can you tell us about the terrorism. I think we've been very clear over the past few months that this is a group of people, of unknown size, that want to either try to turn back the clock on the country of Iraq moving toward sovereignty and return it to its former dictatorship, or it's a group of people and it's a group of people that are most afraid of what this country is turning into, which is a liberal, sovereign, democratic country at peace with its neighbors, that grants its citizens individual expression, individual rights, freedom of the press and freedom of expression of religion. That's what I can tell you about these terrorists and the ultimate purpose of these terrorists.

Senor: I would just add to that, I think in the last week and a half you have seen the two extreme forces at play here that are each trying to lead Iraq in two separate directions. It's very clear that one is the group of political leaders, Iraqi political leaders who stepped forward and worked very long and very hard on an interim constitution that enshrines a bill of rights and set of democratic principles that General Kimmitt was referring to, that sets Iraq on a path to a sovereign democratic nation, which is what we believe is the hope that most Iraqis have for the country and their future.

And in a matter of days of that work being completed, you had a vicious terrorist attack organized that resulted in the death of several hundred Iraqis, clearly designed to turn back Iraq, prevent it from marching forward on its path to a sovereign democracy; an assumption or recognition by the organizers of the attack that they are in a race against time, to borrow the phrase of Mr. Zarqawi, who is an affiliate of al Qaeda, who recently drafted a document which was his sort of battle plan, if you will, for terrorist activities in Iraq. And he focused on the June 30th date, that as the Iraqis move closer and close to June 30th and the handover of sovereignty and once the Iraqis have an effective, self-governing democracy, it will be that much more difficult for the terrorists to justify their attacks. They will "no longer have a pretext" -- his words, not mine.

And so you saw these two extreme forces at play here literally in a matter of days, back-to-back actually: one day the Iraqi Governing Council announcing they had reached agreement, and the following day a terrible terrorist attack. And I think most Iraqis and certainly the coalition understands what's at stake when you have these two forces at play, and that one is caused by the other. One is strengthened by the other. One stepping forward makes the other realize that the stakes are high, and you need one to move forward dramatically in order to defeat the other. We must move forward on the march to democracy in order to defeat the terrorists.

Rajiv?

Q: Just further on the Hillah incident. Did the individual -- the victims have security with them, and what was -- did anybody attempt to fight back? You know, I know you don't get into operational issues, but it's a basic, you know, issue. When CPA staff generally travel around they have security, and did these people have any security escort with them?

And the second question, but I can't remember. I'll come back to you with my second question.

Senor: Sure there's not a third and a fourth and a fifth?

Q: Oh, no, no, no. I --

Senor: Oh, shoot.

Q: Yeah, shoot, I'm not going to let you get off that easily.

Other than these two -- other than one of your colleagues who was killed in the rocket attack on the Al-Rashid Hotel, are these the sort of second and third civilian CPA staff to have been killed here in Iraq during the period of the CPA?

Senor: Yes. To your last question, the answer is yes. They are the second and third, or they could be categorized as the first and second because they were the first and second DOD civilian employees that fall under a certain program of civilian employees that are deployed to Iraq to work under the CPA.

To your first question, Rajiv, I just -- I hope you and everyone will understand that we just aren't commenting on any details like the ones you are inquiring about just yet. If you give us a day or two, we'll be prepared to talk about it. But right now we are just at the beginning of the investigation. There are a lot of confusing reports, which is often the case with first reports, and we just don't want to get out front on confirming details until we're a hundred percent certain.

Kimmitt: If that sounded a bit confusing, about the second and third versus the first, second and third, the first casualty, Lieutenant Colonel Chad Buehring, who was killed, was an active-duty officer, seconded to the CPA working in support of the Coalition Provisional Authority, but was a uniformed officer.

Senor: Whereas the second and third were DOD civilian employees under what we call the 3161 program.

Ned?

Q: I just was wondering about -- General Swannack mentioned this problem with the delivery of equipment for police and ICDC throughout Anbar province. And does that apply to other areas of Iraq as well? He spoke about waiting for money, for supplemental in these delays. How does it apply --

Kimmitt: Well, let's be very clear what General Swannack said. What he said was that he was concerned, had been concerned, when asked what his greatest concern was over his command tour, was the fact that he was not able to get the equipment to the troops in time. And he felt that one of the reasons for that was that as the military and the CPA worked towards getting the equipment to the Iraqi police service, the Iraqi Civil Defense Service, the Iraqi armed forces, that part of that was held up in the supplemental process; that it wasn't considered the fault of CPA, but it was just the process of getting the equipment out there.

Senor: And we're just in the -- in the supplemental, the most recently passed supplemental, there is $3.2 billion designated for Iraqi security force training and equipping, and we will be moving forward with that.

Q: (Off mike.)

Senor: He's here. Yeah.

Q: I'm not asking about fault, I'm just asking: Is that also an issue in other provinces? Like in Karbala, for instance, they say they don't have enough equipment as well. Is it just Al Anbar, or is it --

Kimmitt: Yeah, you could get six of the division commanders in here, and every one would say that they don't feel that the equipment is getting to the troops quickly enough, because they've got very high demands on the Iraqi security forces. They would like to have -- and it's reasonable for them to want to have -- a fully equipped, fully trained, fully professionalized military and public security apparatus as quickly as possible inside their provinces, inside their divisional areas of operation. That's an aspiration.

But the reality of the situation is that that takes time. The acquisition of that equipment, the training of those troops, the experience that those troops need takes time.

And every commander, every operational officer wants that to happen quicker, but we've got to realize that gravity and friction affect things here in Baghdad, just like they do throughout the rest of the world.

Senor: Yes?

Q: Do you guys have any figures on the numbers of civilian contractors who have been killed and translators who have been killed working on CPA-related projects? As opposed to -- these were DOD employees, civilian employees --

Senor: Two of the three were.

Q: Yeah, but it seems, unfortunately, there's been a large number of contractors who have also been killed working on projects. Do you guys keep any kind of tally of that?

Kimmitt: We don't actually keep a tally of that. We, of course, hear anecdotal evidence every couple of days or so when certain employees and groups of employees working for the coalition may be attacked at their homes or killed. But as we said time after time, while that is tragic -- and it is tragic, because they work side by side with us -- we don't believe that the reason they're being targeted is because that they're working for the coalition; we believe they're being targeted very similar the way the imams have been targeted, very similar to the way the police have been targeted, very similar to the way other government officials have been targeted: by terrorists who want to send a very clear message of intimidation to anybody that is moving towards a new Iraq.

Senor: Yes?

Q: Luke Baker with Reuters. Some senior officials who are responsible for training the police in ICDC have said that the CPA has really pushed very hard, almost perhaps too hard, for the training to be sped up, for people to get out in the streets; that essentially a lot of the training has been insufficient. And I just wonder whether -- also, particularly with the ICDC, there hasn't been so very much training in human rights culture or restraint or how -- you know, proper use of weaponry. I just wondered how either of you might respond to that.

Kimmitt: That would have been a good question to ask General Swannack, as well, which is: Given a choice between a fully trained, fully equipped, fully professionalized Iraqi police force coming on your street two years from now vice having a not-completely trained, not-completely equipped organization right now, which would you choose? And I would venture to say all of our division commanders would say I'll take the latter. And the reason it goes well beyond just that of equipping and training is the fact that these are tremendous interlocutors, tremendous ways for us to link with the people of Iraq.

It's important for us to get those people out there as quickly as possible, given a minimal level of training, a minimal level of equipment. We don't want to put them out there as a hazard, but every day they are out there, they are aiding the coalition forces and establishing relationships with the people of Iraq, showing the people of Iraq that we truly are not here as occupiers but we are here for a period of time to bring back security and stability to this country before we move on; and that we're leaving an organization behind that has the Iraqi flag on their shoulder that represents them.

And we can't begin to tell you how that has been helpful, how significantly helpful that has been with regards for the capability of the average Iraqi who sees crime, who sees terrorism, and who sees anti-coalition acts go on in his neighborhood; that rather than go up to a coalition person that they don't know, perhaps don't trust through ignorance, are able to go to their own people -- perhaps people from their own neighborhood, such as the Iraqi police service, the ICDC, the border police -- and say: "We've got a problem. There's somebody around the corner from us who shows up in the middle of the night, loads his truck, unloads his truck, don't know what he's carrying, don't recognize his accent, but we need to check that out." Most Iraqis in the main would probably go to an Iraqi police officer before they go to a coalition soldier. And by holding up the deployment of those forces, we would have been putting our soldiers at risk, we would have been putting Iraqi civilians at risk, and we would have been putting the mission at risk.

Senor: Yeah, I would just add, the statistics bear this out. If you look, for instance, at crime in Baghdad, our understanding is that violent crime in Baghdad is down by percentages in the double digits over the last several months. The governor of Basra has told us that crime in Basra is down 70 percent in the last several months.

And if you look at -- just look at the trend here. When we arrived last spring there was not a single Iraqi police officer on the street. Today we have over 70,000 Iraqi police -- not all on the streets; most of them in patrols, others playing support roles. But the fact is, there is a very robust Iraqi police service that just didn't exist before when we were first encountering many of the crime and looting problems. And as General Kimmitt said, you cannot measure how valuable it is to have Iraqis on the front lines who have a better understanding of the language, better understanding of the local culture, for the local rhythm of life. And it has certainly helped with our intelligence gathering.

As for the training program, the training program we have for new Iraqi police officers right now is an eight-week training program that's conducted in Baghdad or in Jordan at the International Police Training Center there. And the more rapid, expedited training program is for Iraqi police officers who served as police officers in the former regime. And while the basic police skill training isn't as critical for them, they do have a three-week training program, what we call the TIPPs program -- Transition and Integration Policing Program. And that program is focused on policing in a democracy, human rights, professional investigative skills, those sorts of things.

Yes?

Q [Through interpreter.]: Yes, two questions to General Kimmitt. You will be giving sovereignty on June 30, according to the agreement. Could you give us an idea where the coalition forces will be starting to withdraw? Where is the plan going to start? Which cities is withdrawal going to come from first, and now long it will be?

Also, another question about Abu Abbas. You may have heard that the government of Palestine has called the embassy in Baghdad and asked him to, in a personal way, to receive Abu Abbas from you and to send it to Ramallah to where Abu Abbas was born. Will you be giving the body of Abu Abbas to the Palestinian Authority?

Mr. Dan, will you be in your meetings continuing the ideas on what kind of leadership will take over from you the sovereignty and the authority on June 30th?

Kimmitt: One of the great joys of this job has been to watch the Iraqi press develop over the past few months. They clearly are understanding the Western standard now that if you don't get three questions in, you can't go for the Pulitzer this year.

With regards to first the question on Abu Abbas, that's exactly what I had said earlier. This will be handled by our State Department. I'm glad to hear that you have been informed that the Palestinian Authority has requested that through the embassy, and we'll stand by for whatever decision is made by our State Department.

On the first question you asked, about sovereignty and the pulling out of the American forces, coalition forces from different cities, those are not connected. I would expect in many of the cities, in most of the cities, that what you see on July 15th will look very similar to what you see on June 15th. The pullback from the cities has little to do with the TAL or the hand-over of sovereignty to the people of Iraq, and it has more to do with the program that we call local control.

There is a time when it will be appropriate for less of a coalition face and more of an Iraqi uniform to be patrolling the streets of particular cities. The first factor that will cause that will be the conditions on the ground: what is the threat situation, how many attacks have there been in that city, what is the security situation in that particular city. The second is the capability of the Iraqi security forces to handle the mission. So that were the coalition forces to move on a calendar rather than on conditions, they might inadvertently create a security vacuum, leaving the Iraqi security forces with more of a job than they can handle.

So that is why the process of local control is not measured by a clock, it is not measured by the TAL, it is not measured by the hand- over of sovereignty, but it will be measured by conditions on the ground in that particular area: is the stability level such that it is appropriate at this point to have less of a coalition presence, fewer overall forces, and more of an Iraqi uniform and Iraqi face handling that situation.

And it also depends on how able the Iraqi forces are for that particular city. I can't speculate on which of the cities will be the first to see less of a coalition presence and more of an Iraqi presence. For now, I can guarantee what you're going to see is a lot of partnership between the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces as they work side by side to maintain and in many cases confirm and in other cases establish continuous security in the cities and the countryside of Iraq.

Senor: To your third question, on the caretaker government, what we call the interim government post-June 30th, the plan for that government was outlined in the November 15th agreement reached between the coalition and the Governing Council. It was a plan to establish a caucus-chosen interim government that would assume sovereignty on June 30th. It's a complex plan. It is challenging to implement because the problem is challenging, so the solution is challenging, so the solution is complex. And the reason it is complex is because we are trying to hand over sovereignty to a governing body that will be viewed as legitimate and credible in the eyes of the Iraqi people, but is indirectly elected. And it is often hard to strike the right balance between credibility and indirect elections -- indirect accountability, if you will.

And so we developed what we believed was the best alternative, that could get us closer to June 30th, get us closer to sovereignty and do it in a credible way because we believe direct elections, the U.N. believes direct elections in the next several months will be very difficult in a country with no voter rolls, no political party laws, no electoral -- no real reliable electoral laws. There's been no census here in some 20 years, so it's difficult to carry out the direct elections.

So this was our proposal and we have begun to work on it, but we have made clear all along that we would be open to clarifications. We have recognized all along that it would be subject to change. It now appears as though it's going to be subject to major change. And we are welcoming the input of individuals and organizations that have expertise in the area, particularly the United Nations, which has issued a very helpful report on this particular issue in terms of next steps. And they have made clear that in order to make the changes necessary to simplify our caucus plan or to change it completely, it would require the input of the coalition, the Governing Council and the United Nations. And so those steps are going to be taken in the weeks ahead as all parties begin to discuss what kind of changes should be made.

But understand it's not as though work has not been afoot here over the last couple of weeks. I think the Governing Council and the coalition in a supportive role have been working day and night, literally, very hard on this transitional administrative law.

If you look at the November 15th agreement, 95 percent of the November 15th agreement is focused in its significance on the transitional administrative law. Everyone had thought that the greatest task at hand, the greatest challenge would be crafting this interim constitution. Nobody believed that it could be done. Nobody believed that we could get this 25 -- this group of 25 Iraqis of very diverse backgrounds, representing different regions, different political stripes could come together and produce this document. Very little attention was given to the caucus plan. The focus was on the transitional administrative law.

The fact is the transitional administrative law has been drafted. It's been finalized by the Iraqi Governing Council within the time frame specified in the November 15th agreement. The issue of the caucus plan, which is important but of secondary importance to the transitional administrative law, will now be amended now that we've gotten the interim constitution behind us. It will take a little bit of time to do it, but it won't hold us back. We're still on a path to hand sovereignty over on June 30th.

Yes?

Q: Sho Beppu (ph), NHK. General Kimmitt, I'm sorry to change the subject. I understand that your forces are in a big rotation now.

And for new ones to come, like how many hours of cultural awareness programs, cultural briefings of the Iraqi culture, do they receive before coming here? And I'm asking you this because I heard from many locals, when I was in the town, like particularly it seems that many Iraqis have problems to understand the sign of "stop" out there of the American forces. They thought that you -- like you put your hand close here, which doesn't make sense for -- apparently, for many Iraqis. And like how many soldiers that come here know the word "stop" in Arabic, which is "kef"?

Kimmitt: No, I think that's a good point. And that's why we are so insistent upon running what we call the right seat/left seat program, because those soldiers that have been here for a year, six months, mostly a year, are the ones that are best able to acculturate the new soldiers as they come in. Even if you taught many of those same skills in a sterile environment back in the barracks of Fort Hood or in a training environment, such as the Joint Readiness Training Center, it certainly has far more effect when you're in country, when that unit that you're replacing -- you spend 10 to 15 days working alongside them, so those soldiers that have been doing it for a year can sort of explain: "This is how we operate in this area. Here are some of the local signs. Here are some of the expressions you want to use. Here are some of the people you want to meet."

So the number of hours that they encounter and the amount of training they get back in home station probably is not nearly as important as those two weeks that they do the right seat/left seat, when they're actually on the ground, talking to a peer who's been here for an extended period of time, really sort of giving him that local knowledge, that local flavor, teaching him those expressions.

Senor: Time for a couple more. Yes?

Q: Jennifer Glass from Public Radio. A quick question about Hillah. Is this the same road where the American missionary was killed about three weeks ago?

And Brigadier Kimmitt, about Iraqi civilians in detention centers like Abu Grave (sp), I'm wondering how many Iraqi civilians are being held, what their status is, whether they're prisoners, prisoners of war.

Iraqis are saying that sometimes on raids, when they go -- when troops go to a house and they don't find a certain family member, they just round up everybody in the family and throw them in the brig. They're having a hard time tracking people down. One father couldn't find his son -- hasn't been able to find his son for nine months. And how can they get access to information and their relatives in these detention centers? Thanks.

Senor: Jennifer, on the first question, for reasons I articulated earlier, I'm just not going to comment today on any of these details related to the investigation. We will comment on them once we have information that we are much more confident in than the initial reports that we've received.

Kimmitt: Yeah. Let me take those four questions one at a time. First of all, we have roughly 9(,000) to 10,000 Iraqi citizens, people holding Iraqi passports, currently in detention as security detainees or as criminal detainees. I don't have the exact numbers -- we can give them to you right after this -- in terms of which are under each category.

In terms of the assertions that we conduct mass sweeps, bring a lot of people in, throw them in the detention facilities, nothing could be further from the truth. Our soldiers are very, very precise in their operations. There are a number of procedures that have to be followed and a number of filters that have to be penetrated before a detainee ends up at Abu Ghraib or one of the other facilities.

We typically have a 72-hour time period in which the unit that captured that person has to demonstrate why that person is an imperative threat to the coalition, which is the legal standard under -- the standard under Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions by which we hold on to persons designated as security detainees.

We have taken the effort and made the effort to put the names of all security and criminal detainees that we hold in coalition facilities on the Internet. It is in Arabic. Anyone has access to that. And if they don't have, perhaps, an Internet at their home, they certainly can go to any of the coalition facilities and look at that list.

Did that satisfy your questions?

Q: Just a quick one. Are you arresting women as well? Because I've been told that -- I mean, I've been told that in one particular neighborhood, that if they go to the house and the husbands aren't home, they take the wives. And I have had a couple of Iraqis say that, you know, they've gone to go to find out why their brother or uncle or whoever was taken, and basically they said, well, if you help us, we'll help you. Basically, if you become an informant for us we'll give you your relatives back.

Kimmitt: Well, you're suggesting that as a matter of practice, the coalition takes hostages. The coalition does not take hostages. The persons that we are holding in detention facilities have evidence to suggest that they either were involved in criminal activity or being held as security detainees as an imperative threat to the coalition.

With regards to women, out of the more than 10,000 persons we hold in detention, I believe the latest number is less than 20 of those are female. Some are being held as criminals. Some are being held as security detainees. Two of them are being held being part of the top-55 list of high-value detainees.

Senor: Ned. Last question. Ned, and then you, and then we'll be done.

Q: I was just wondering about this event in Nasiriyah, how this broke out, this mob, what started it.

Kimmitt: Ned, don't know. They were called to the scene. We understand that there might have been something that a security group was holding someone hostage. But by the time the coalition arrived, they were less concerned about how the mob got there and what they were concerned about, and more concerned about restoring order and trying to bring peace to the situation.

Senor: Yes, ma'am?

Q [Through interpreter.]: I have a question for General Kimmitt. You have said about the siege of the Sunna in Mosul; were you able to catch some of these people, of this group? And there is news also that someone has been caught as member of Ansar al-Islam, his name Khamaran al-Billi or al-Ubie (ph). If there is any information further that you have, please would you give it to us?

Kimmitt: Yes, on the second question, I will get the name from you after this press conference and we will try to find out what information we might have.

What I said in northeastern Mosul was that we picked up 14 persons -- five of them primary targets -- that we believed to have possible connections to the Ansar al-Sunna group. But that's going to be over the next couple of days as we talk to these people, as we have a chance to find out their past affiliations and past associations, we'll be able to make a better determination of whether they in fact are members of the organization. But it's still too early to tell. The intelligence is what led us to picking these people up. The interrogations will bear out whether the intelligence we had prove that these people were in fact members of the group.

Senor: And let me just wrap up by saying that I know it's frustrating that we cannot confirm more information for you on the incident involving the deaths of the civilians. But I'll just say that, again, we really have to respect the process of next-of-kin notification. This obviously was a tragic event. These civilians who lost their lives in service to their country, in service in Iraq, is tragic, as is any day that we lose coalition forces. And there's just procedures we have to follow here and we have to show great respect for those procedures. And when we have more details that we are comfortable releasing, we will do so.

Thanks, everybody.




http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2004/tr20040310-1283.html



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