Saddam’s men in black’

IRAQ WAR
UNCONVENTIONAL FORCE

Spotted in Baghdad for first time: Saddam’s men in black’

A DAY after Iraq threatened to resort to ‘non-conventional’ warfare, President Saddam Hussein’s ‘men in black’ showed their hand.

The gun-toting, fanatical Fedayeen militia, in their distinctive black uniforms, were seen on the streets of Baghdad for the first time, AP reported yesterday.

They are certainly ‘unconventional’, being skilled in guerilla warfare and suicide bombing tactics.

Along with the elite Republican Guard and the Special Security Organisation (SSO), they make up Mr Saddam’s ultimate ‘ring of defence’. Their appearance has heightened fears that he may launch an attack with chemical or biological weapons against the coalition.

The sightings came after Iraq’s Information Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahaf warned on Friday that the regime would make Baghdad’s international airport a ‘graveyard’ for coalition forces.

‘We will carry out something that is not conventional against them, not military. It will be a great example to them,’ he said.

His words seemed to become a grim reality when a US Marine gunnery sergeant told Reuters yesterday that a suicide bomber had attacked US troops at the seized airport.

But US Army officials later denied this, although they added that resistance there by underequipped Iraqis was ‘suicidal’ in nature.

However, the Iraqi regime could use human shields to try and retake Baghdad’s airport, warned the commander of the British forces in the Gulf.

‘Saddam could use a human tide and we had signs there were loudspeakers signalling people to rise up and march on the airport,’ said Air Marshal Brian Burridge.

Human shields and kamikaze attacks are what Mr Saddam has been preparing for over many months.

He had set up training camps for suicide bombers and militias in the outskirts of the capital and sought to woo radical Islamic groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and in countries like Syria and Lebanon, to back his cause.

Indeed, Lt-Colonel B.P. McCoy of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, said yesterday that in a battle on the outskirts of Baghdad, Marines engaged in close-quarters fighting with pro-Saddam volunteers from Jordan, Egypt, Sudan and elsewhere.

‘It’s like a jihad. They were given a rifle and told to become a martyr,’ said Lt-Col McCoy, whose troops used bayonets in a marsh battle.

Some 6,000 Muslims seeking martyrdom have flocked to Iraq since the war began.

Hundreds of others are streaming in every day from terrorist groups known for their suicide attacks in Israel.

If their tactics do not deter US forces, some like Air Marshal Burridge contend that Mr Saddam could resort to weapons of mass destruction.

On Friday, US troops discovered chemical warfare manuals and thousands of vials of white powder in a complex
by the Euphrates River.

Dr Shafiq Al-Ghabara of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Kuwait said: ‘Baghdad is where Saddam is keeping his best men to fight and this is where the street fighter in him might force him to do some unthinkable things.’

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