Participating was Daniel Senor, Senior CPA Advisor.)
MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. General Kimmitt has a brief opening statement, after which we'll be happy to take your questions.
As far as Ambassador Bremer's activities are concerned, he continues to work with the Governing Council on the implementation of the November 15th agreement. He's continued with meetings over the past few days and will continue with such over the next few days.
GEN. KIMMITT: Thank you.
Good afternoon. The area of operations remains relatively stable. Over the past seven days there's been an average of 18 engagements per day against coalition military, two attacks per day against Iraqi security forces, and one per day against Iraqi civilians. These numbers are significantly lower than recent norms, although we anticipate, and are fully prepared for, any upturn in attacks in the days and weeks ahead. The coalition will remain offensively oriented in order to proactively attack, to kill or capture anti-coalition elements and enemies of the Iraqi people; to obtain intelligence for future operations; and to ensure the people of Iraq of our determination to establish a safe and secure environment. To that end, the coalition conducted 1,663 patrols, 14 raids, and captured 76 suspects in the past 24 hours.
In the north, coalition forces conducted 202 patrols, five cordon-and-knock operations, and detained 19 individuals. Two individuals were detained after coalition units found a weapons cache during a cordon-and-knock operation at a Mosul furniture store. Among the weapons found were 46 rocket-propelled grenades. In addition, tips from local Iraqi citizens or Iraqi weapons turn-ins produced significant amounts of weapons, small arms, and ammunitions in Mosul.
In response to direct-fire contacts along the Syrian border over the past two nights, coalition forces in the north conducted operations at five separate locations east of the Syrian border. Eight people and two vehicles were detained for firing small arms at an observation post in Qaiyara.
Thirty-five Iraqi non-commissioned officers graduated from the third Iraqi Civil Defense Corps primary leadership development course yesterday. With the assistance of the ICDC battalion, the coalition continues to conduct offensive operations in Mosul. As but one example, two nights ago coalition and ICDC forces together apprehended two Saddam Fedayeen individuals in Mosul.
The citizens of Du Kardakan and coalition soldiers showcased the model village in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The newly rebuilt village, which was totally destroyed until six months ago, included homes for both Arab and Kurdish families. Since resolution of the land claims in that village, 40 Kurdish and two Arab families have constructed homes.
Today four Iraqi males traveling in vehicles stopped approximately 50 meters from a gas station in Mosul and opened fire on coalition soldiers guarding the station. One coalition soldier died of gunshot wounds in that attack.
In the north-central zone, coalition forces conducted 396 patrols and 14 raids and captured 46 individuals. Four Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers were injured as a result of a roadside bomb. All were taken to a coalition base for treatment, and three were returned to duty.
In Samarra, soldiers raided a building in search of a targeted individual believed to be financing anti-coalition activities. They did not find the target, but a relative of the suspect was captured and is believed to be part of the financing operation. That person provided additional information, which led to the capture of a third relative involved in the operation and nearly two million U.S. dollars in cash.
Five people and small arms weapons and ammunition were seized yesterday in Zahairiya. One of the individuals was wanted in connection to the murder of an Iraqi citizen who had been actively assisting the coalition.
Coalition forces made the final payment of 102,000 [dollars] for the repair of the Samarra water treatment facility, and today, regrettably, the Iraqi Police Service found an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) near the Baqubah government building. An Iraqi Police Service bomb squad member attempted to disarm the device, but the device exploded, fatally wounding him.
In Baghdad, the 1st Armored Division conducted 514 patrols and four offensive operations and detained 17 individuals. On Saturday evening, a patrol was alerted to an explosion in Sadr City. Witnesses at the scene stated that four Iraqis attempted to fire an improvised multiple-rocket launcher that malfunctioned and exploded, killing three and wounding a fourth. Police forces evacuated the wounded Iraqi to a hospital, where he subsequently passed away.
Based on a tip from a local Iraqi citizen, forces conducted a raid on the residence of a guard of a local mosque. Four Iraqis were captured, and the unit confiscated hand grenades, which matched the type of grenades thrown at patrols in that vicinity for the past seven months. Bomb-making material and circuit boards were also seized.
In the west, the 82nd Airborne and coalition units conducted 180 patrols, including 11 joint patrols with the Iraqi Border Police and local police forces, conducted seven offensive operations, and captured 17 enemy. Five enemy personnel were captured near Iskandariyah when they were observed planting roadside bombs. A subsequent search resulted in the discovery of 10 100-pound artillery rounds being rigged together as a large bomb.
Information from several local citizens led to the capture of nine enemy personnel and multiple weapons and ammunition in Hadithah. The individuals were suspected of being weapons dealers and engaging in anti-coalition activities.
Civil Affairs personnel in the West met with local officials in Nasir Wa al-Salam (ph), and gave $3,000 for rehabilitation efforts at the Al-Anwal (ph) Primary School. The project will affect 900 students, cost $10,000, and should be completed by January 15th.
Civil Affairs also met with local officials to identify a new landfill to be used during the clean-up of Highway 10 from Habbaniya to ar Ramadi. Civil Affairs teams finalized plans for a 200-meter extension on the Abdullah bin-al Mubarak sewage canal renovation project. The project, scheduled for completion in the next two weeks, will significantly improve sanitation conditions in the Hit community.
In the Center-South Zone, coalition forces conducted 145 patrols and detained 100 personnel, all of whom were later deported to Iran. In the Southeast Zone, coalition forces conducted 226 patrols, four raids, and detained 11 personnel. Forces in al Shata (sp) carried out several cordon-and-search operations this weekend, resulting in the capture of significant amounts of weapons and ammunition. Following that tip from a local citizen, two individuals were detained in connection to an attack on a coalition patrol in Safwan Saturday. Two other Iraqis were also arrested in connection with the incident.
Six hundred public health classes were conducted with more than 14,600 students. The goal of the classes is to improve the overall public health system in the Maisan (ph) governate.
Thank you. We'll be happy to take your questions.
Q General, (name inaudible) -- from Reuters. Sorry, could you just repeat what you said about the coalition soldier who died in Mosul after that attack by the gunmen?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yes. We had a soldier, today at approximately mid-day, who was involved in an operation in the vicinity of a gas station. There was a drive-by shooting by four Iraqis, we believe to be Iraqis, in a vehicle, shot and killed him.
Q Hi, General. Vivian -- (inaudible) from Time Magazine. There's been some reports of some major operation ongoing this afternoon in Mosul, and the city actually being -- the major arteries into the city being closed off. Do you know anything about that?
GEN. KIMMITT: It is routine that as part of their ongoing operations, all of our divisions will often conduct what we call flash checkpoints. As to the specific operation that you're referring to, we don't give away operational details as a matter of routine.
Q Hi. (Name inaudible) -- from The Wall Street Journal. In the past couple of days, there have been somewhat contradictory information coming out from both the CPA and the Governing Council about whether a tribunal is being set up to try war crimes cases and, if so, the status of that court. I wonder if you could help try to put some -- make that a bit clearer as to whether things stand.
MR. SENOR: Sure. This is an issue that is going to be led by the Governing Council. It's an initiative led by the Governing Council. The process will be run by the Governing Council and be implemented by Iraqis. Shortly after the Governing Council was formed, one of their primary priorities that they announced was that they wanted to try crimes against humanity. This was something that they wanted to pursue. This is something that they wanted to run. And the international standard tends to be whether or not the local population is both able and willing to take the lead on such an initiative. Clearly, given Iraq's strong legal tradition, they are capable. There is a legal infrastructure in this country that was largely frozen for 35 years under Saddam Hussein, but over the past seven months we've been working on resurrecting it. You've got 400 courts. You've got a fully functioning judicial system right now. So we've been working on resurrecting it. The infrastructure and the capacity is there with jurists and so is the willingness by Iraqis to run this locally. And so they -- we are giving them the authority to draft the statute and to move forward on this. And they seem to be coming to closure on it. We should expect an announcement shortly.
Q (Name inaudible) -- CBS News. General, there have been several abductions over the last several weeks, if not months, of Iraqis. Many parents have told us that they are afraid for their children. They've been taking them to school. There are armed guards at such schools. That implies that security certainly is not becoming much better in Baghdad and around Baghdad. How do you address that?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, I would suggest that, if you take a look at overall in Baghdad, the situation is improving by many measures. We have more police on the ground. We certainly have not had the number of attacks in Baghdad of late that we have seen. We see prosperity returning to parts of Baghdad. And do we have it where we want it? Do we have a city that is a purely safe and secure environment? No. We're continuing to work on that, through both military channels and also the stand-up training, equipping, and employment of Iraqi services, such as the Border Patrol, such as the police, the ICDC, and new Iraqi army. We're not where we want to be, but we're making progress.
MR. SENOR: Just to follow up on General Kimmitt, violent crime seems to be on a statistical decline, and that is for a number of factors, not the least -- caused from a number of factors, not the least of which is we have stood up and Iraqi police force that now numbers well over 60,000. When we arrived, the number was zero. So that has helped bring down violent crime, but there are still individuals and groups in this country that are trying to turn the clock back on Iraq, that have a stake in the failure of the new Iraq, that are enemies of freedom. They are either foreign terrorists or former regime elements, and they are targeting a whole host of institutions and entities. They are attacking the coalition, but they are also attacking Iraqis who work with the coalition. They are attacking NGOs and international organizations, as you know. And so they have an incentive, they have their own interest, in making this process fail, and part of that is to engage in the sorts of attacks you cited. But as more and more Iraqis step up and more and more Iraqis assume security positions, which they are -- there is an increase in the number of Iraqis stepping up each day both providing us information and volunteering to play a role in securing their own country -- we will address all of the causes of the violence, not just the domestic violent crime.
Q Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, DPA. General, I would like to ask some specifics about this incident in Sadr City. When did it happen? As I understood you, four enemies tried to launch an improvised rocket launcher, three killed, four wounded. Who were the victims? The enemies themselves who tried to launch, or bystanders?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, we got our information from the Iraqi police service. It is our understanding that this happened on Saturday. There were four people involved. Three were killed, one was wounded, for a total of four people. That is the report that we have at this time. But to further clarify that, I'd recommend you go to the police services.
MR. SENOR: Lisa?
Q Thank you. First of all, General, can you comment on reports that U.S. generals have recently visited Israel to study tactics used by the Israeli Defense Force in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
And also, could you tell me what your estimate currently is for the number of Iraqi security forces that will be needed to be in place by the time the transition of power takes place in June?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, on the first question, I'm not aware of any generals that have gone recently to Israel to study the tactics that they use in the Gaza Strip. Just unaware. The second question was the number. And I think Secretary Rumsfeld used the number of approximately 225,000 as our goal, and we don't have any different number than that.
MR. SENOR: That number was the number prior to the announcement of the November 15th plan, and it continues to be the number for the time being. We don't see right now a need to adjust that number just because the path to sovereignty has been accelerated.
Q Evan Osnos from the Chicago Tribune. There's been reports today that South Korean contractors have pulled out on an electrical project. To what degree does a withdrawal like that impact reconstruction? And are you concerned about further withdrawals as it goes forward?
MR. SENOR: To our knowledge, there has been no withdrawal by that South Korean subcontractor. There is a security assessment in the area in which they work, but there is no withdrawal.
Overall the broader question is, here, as individuals and entities and organizations that are involved in the reconstruction of Iraq -- as they withdraw because of intimidation by foreign terrorists and by former regime elements, the terrorists win and the former regime elements win.
And so there's a number of ways to defeat the foreign terrorists and the elements of the former regime. One is the things that General Kimmitt is talking about doing, which is capturing and killing these elements, but it's also about demonstrating will. It's also about demonstrating that life will go on and the reconstruction of Iraq will continue and this train will keep moving, which it is, every single day: 17,000 reconstruction projects completed since the fall of the regime, almost 100 projects a day. That has not changed. That continues to move on. And I could list a number of elements and number of projects that continue to move forward. And it's important that we stay focused on that.
And it's something the Iraqi people understand, because they're working hand in hand, side by side with us every single day on the reconstruction of their country. They understand how high the stakes are. They understand what the enemies of freedom are trying to achieve. And they will not give up.
Q Carol Williams with The Los Angeles Times. I have a question about the gas lines. It appears at least part of the problem is that individuals are tanking up and delivering their fuel to roadside black market sellers and, you know, they're getting as much as 20 times the pump price. Has there been any consideration given to raising the price at the pump to eliminate the incentive for this secondary black market?
MR. SENOR: Yes, black market manipulation continues to be a problem. This is something that the coalition has been in consultations closely with Iraqi Minister Bahr al-Uloum -- Oil Minister Bahr al-Uloum and the senior staff of the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Here are the sorts of things we're learning: There was a trucking strike up in the north from Turkey that delivers benzene down to Mosul. That trucking strike lasted two days and caused an enormous shortage in Mosul. Of course, rumors spread, and you get a hoarding situation, which obviously intersects and interacts with the black market situation.
And so we're taking a number of steps to work on that. One is we are mandating that of the 105 gas stations, for instance, in Baghdad, 20 of them will stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Another 20 will be required to stay open until 10 p.m. rather than the regular closure hour of 7 p.m.
In Mosul, the trucking strike has ended, so the supply has kicked in again, and we are continuing to monitor that situation. I mean, just today -- as of 0500 today, I'm told, 146 benzine trucks have come down to Mosul carrying -- transporting 3.5 million liters. And so there's a number of steps we're taking to address what we think is the primary cause in Mosul, but also to deal with this black market issue and the hoarding that you raised. And it's going to take, you know, a little time to work it out. Fortunately right now supply outstrips demand, but we do have to address this issue, and we continue to do so.
And I'll also add you've heard me from this podium before say that there are other causes as well. Since the end of major combat operations you've seen almost a quarter million new vehicles come to this country with the end of import restrictions and the end of sanctions. And so there's just a lot more demand than there was before. And so those factors obviously interact as well. It's a confluence of factors. It's a complicated situation. We're working on it, and we have high confidence in the senior leadership of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil. It is identifying these problems, coming to us and working closely with us in getting to a solution.
Q So the price --
MR. SENOR: I would defer to the Ministry of Oil. They really are taking the lead on this.
Q Julie McCarthy, National Public Radio. I wonder if you could give us an idea of what the protocol is. You talk about how the situation -- the security situation -- you believe, in Baghdad is improving. What is the protocol for people inside the green zone? To what extent are people allowed to get out and observe apart from the military that's been deployed in convoys? How free are people to go to parts of Baghdad to actually see for themselves how people feel about the security?
And, secondly, could you tell us a little bit more about the Iranians that were deported, captured and deported?
MR. SENOR: Yeah, let me do that. Yeah. I won't get into the operational security details of how we travel, when we travel, what are the restrictions, but I will say this: There are thousands of employees who -- civilian employees who work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the lion's share of which are spread across the country, the lion's share of which are spread across the 18 governates and are out there in the field dealing with Iraqis every single day, working on the reconstruction of the country with them, working on the reconstruction of their governates and their economy, and working on improving their security situation. As for Baghdad, that is the same. From our Baghdad headquarters we have employees every single day who are going out in the field visiting ministries, working with ministerial staff, and so we are continuing to forge ahead, regardless of the challenges on the security front.
(To General Kimmitt.) You can take the Iranian --
Q The Iranians?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yes. One of the things that we do down on the borders -- Syrian border, Jordanian border, Saudi border, Iranian border -- is routinely we will assist with the Border Protection Service to facilitate entry and exit of people in and out of Iraq. If a person does not demonstrate that they have the proper passports, paperwork, to get across the border, those people will be sent back to the country from which they came. It is no different here in Iraq than it is in any other country. There's nothing special being done just because this is Iraq. If they have valid credentials to cross the border, they're allowed. If they're not, they will be asked to go back to the country from which they came.
Q But I'm asking about the 100 that you mentioned have been sent back to Iran.
GEN. KIMMITT: Mm-hmm. (In agreement.)
Q (To colleague.) Captured in the south?
Q Captured in the --
Q Captured in the southwest or -- southwest I thought you said.
GEN. KIMMITT: Southeast.
Q Can you tell us more about these Iranians who have been deported?
GEN. KIMMITT: These are typical ongoing operations. This happens every day. We have a number of people that try to attempt to come into the country of Iraq with improper credentials. That happens on the Saudi border, it happens on the Jordanian border, it happens on the Syrian border, it happens on the Iranian border. Its just part of maintaining a safe and secure environment in this country.
Q But it's not a border we're talking about. If you're talking about the southwest, which is what I think you referred to, we're not talking about the border.
Q That there were 100 people --
GEN. KIMMITT: Southeast.
Q -- captured and deported to Iran. In your report.
MR. SENOR: He said the southeast.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Mike Seray (ph), ABC News. General, is there a pattern emerging on the demographics of the people that are being rounded up in these raids? Suspects? People being turned in? And has that demographic changed over the last month or two?
GEN. KIMMITT: The demographic is simple. These are people that have demonstrated anti-coalition activities or have equipment that is -- could potentially be used in anti-coalition or criminal activities. That's the only demographic. There is no specific pattern of either by country, by nationality, by ethnic group, by religious group that we can --
Q Is it possible to exclude foreign nationals? Are you finding more people that are domestic as opposed to foreign nationals?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, we've said many times that about 90 percent of the persons that are captured in these raids usually are from this country and not from outside this country.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Simon Morrad (sp), NHK. Any new development about the killings of the Japanese? Have you specified which group has done that tragic operation? And in Tikrit they killed two Korean engineers. Is there any relation of killing the Korean persons with the killing of Japanese? Do you have something new about the latest investigation? And how many detainees have you captured until now regarding the incident?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, we have not been provided any information of late from the Japanese government. The Japanese government has the lead on that investigation and has asked us to refer all questions to the Japanese Ministry for that type of information.
MR. SENOR: Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been very specific about that.
Someone who hasn't -- yes?
Q James Rogers from the BBC. A more general question on fuel supplies, please. Do you have any idea when these queues that we see around Baghdad might start to die down, or can you give us a more general idea of what measures you're taking to improve the distribution?
MR. SENOR: Well, I spoke about mandating gas stations or petrol stations to remain open longer. We also -- there are patrols going on -- ongoing by the 1st Armored Division to kind of address the black-market activity that is existing, taking place, right in the neighborhood of the petrol stations. So there are a number of measures in motion right now, and we think that as this Mosul shortage is addressed, and the sort of rumor mill that is generated by that situation dies down, we will decrease the hoarding activity that contributes to the current situation and contributes to some of the black-market manipulation.
Yes? In the back.
Q (Name inaudible) Alice McDonough(sp) -- Voice of America. You said that you think that supply outstrips demand for fuel. Could you be specific about numbers of gallons? Like how much does Iraq need, and is it producing that much? Numbers?
MR. SENOR: I would defer you to the Ministry of Oil. They have requested all of those numbers right now to come from them, not from us. So I would ask you to contact them for those specifics.
Yes, right here on the front.
Q Mustaaf (sp) from Al-Jazeera. What is the coalition forces doing to improve the control of the borders? And the follow-up is, what was the main goal for the -- you know, for the cordons and so on, in the west of the country? You know, what are you looking for, Saddam Hussein or -- you know, terrorists or whatever?
GEN. KIMMITT: Control of the border remains one of our tasks that we perform to maintain a safe and secure environment. But let's be candid; the borders around the country of Iraq approximate that of the United States border with Mexico. There is no way that any force can seal the borders of a country. We use a combination of aerial platforms, electronic platforms and human platforms -- soldiers and border police -- to try to monitor the border to the extent possible. But realistically, it would be impossible to seal the border.
Now, with regards to the cordons that you're referring to; fundamentally, any time that we have some concerns about a particular area, a particular target, a particular objective, one of our techniques is to cordon off that area before we send troops in to actually take care of that target. And that's what, typically, our cordon operations do.
We have time for one more question. Yes?
Q Steve Covey (ph) from AFP. I understand that these South Koreans were power workers who were working to help boost the capacity of the electricity grid between the generators in north-central and northern Iraq and the capital. What sort of delay is this security review on their operations in north-central Iraq going to cause your efforts to boost distribution and supply to the capital?
MR. SENOR: We are dealing with security assessments all over the country all the time, often in response to sabotage incidents or concerns about sabotage incidents, or just about -- in dealing with general improvement of the security situation. It's something that factors into our planning. Sometimes we go, you know, exactly according to plan, sometimes things take longer, sometimes they take shorter. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly to a particular site what the exact delay will be.
GEN. KIMMITT: At peril, Mark hasn't had a chance for his nightly question.
MR. SENOR: Mark?
Q The question was already asked, that's why I --
GEN. KIMMITT: Okay, good.
MR. SENOR: Thanks, everybody.
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