"Chalabi backers arrested for looting&qu

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 at 5:01PM :

We already knew they were thugs. What else is new?
Apr. 23, 2003. 01:00 AM
Toronto Star

Chalabi backers arrested for looting
Clothing, china taken from homes Stolen art turns up at U.S. border

BAGHDAD—American troops arrested fighters of Ahmed Chalabi's U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress yesterday after they were found looting abandoned homes of former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Fighters of the group have been caught repeatedly while looting homes in an enclave in Baghdad where members of Saddam's Baath party lived, said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryce Ivings, of Sarasota, Fla.

Yesterday, soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, detained four suspected looters dressed in the group's desert camouflage uniforms and carrying rocket-propelled grenades, Ivings said. The men, who did not speak English, were taken to a prisoner-of-war detention centre.

Less than an hour later, another patrol found four other fighters — in uniform, but unarmed — carrying away china, glassware and clothing from empty houses, said Sgt. Jason Letterman. They were not held, but were told to cease looting.

"They said they were only stealing from houses belonging to Saddam's bodyguards," Letterman said. "We told them we can't let them steal stuff from anyone.''

Some of the self-styled "Free Iraqi Forces" were trained, uniformed and brought to Iraq by the U.S. military to help U.S. troops. They are the military wing of the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress led by Chalabi, an exile who enjoys strong support from the Pentagon.

In Washington, U.S. law enforcement officials said stolen art and artifacts looted from Iraq's museums have begun to move on worldwide markets. The Customs Service at the U.S. border has stopped at least two pieces of art believed to have been stolen.

Customs officials declined to comment on the investigation.

And the FBI's stolen art department has begun to pick up information from contacts in an elite group of international buyers and sellers specializing in Mesopotamian, Asian and Middle Eastern art.

Lynn Chaffinch, manager of the FBI's art theft program, said several contacts have reported hearing about priceless items being transported across Middle Eastern countries.

Star's Wire Services

-- Sadie
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