(Participating was Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Deupty Director for Operations and Daniel Senor, Senior CAP Adviser.)
MR. SENOR: Good afternoon. I just have a quick couple of announcements on Ambassador Bremer's schedule, after which General Kimmitt has an opening statement, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.
Ambassador Bremer traveled to Basra today with the Iraqi minister of public works, Nesreen Barwari. There they met with the governor of Basra as well as a Governing Council member, Izzedin Salim.
In addition to that meeting, they followed up with a meeting with the Coalition Provisional Authority's Southern Headquarters staff. Ambassador Bremer met with the entire team there about strategy and programs for the next six months, a critical phase, obviously, in the reconstruction leading up to the hand-over of political sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
Following that, Minister Barwari and Ambassador Bremer toured the Basra sewage treatment plant, which four months ago was completely out of service. Foul water, because it was non-operational, was leaking out into Basra, into the local area. It was contaminating the local area. It posed a significant health risk to the local population unless it had been repaired, part of our reconstruction effort in this critical part of the country that was effectively targeted by the former regime and was punished repeatedly for no other reason than the ethnic make-up of a majority of the area. It is a key focus in the reconstruction effort.
In addition to that, Ambassador Bremer today issued a statement congratulating the participants in the legal training seminar, the Iraqi participants, the Iraqi jurists and lawyers and professors in the training seminar. That was a two-week training seminar that finished up yesterday, I referenced this yesterday, a hundred participants in this conference and this seminar training for maintaining and working towards international standards for prosecution of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. They specifically looked at the statute that is scheduled for the Iraqi special tribunal and what's involved with that and how that works and how to look at the crimes against humanity and the genocide that took place in this country from 1968 to 2003. Participants in the training and the seminar come from Iraq, Great Britain, Australia, Spain and the United States.
Finally, Ambassador Bremer right now is working with the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council on a new hazard-pay program for the new Iraqi army and other security services. This is to address the concerns raised by members of the new Iraqi army in recent weeks about the pay scale, as well as to accommodate other security services. And in the days ahead, there will be a formal hazard pay schedule released. It will be part of an informational campaign that will be launched across the country to inform the members of the new Iraqi army and the other some 160,000 members of the Iraqi security services of this hazard pay schedule.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon.
The area of operations remains stable. Over the past week, there has been a daily average of 22 engagements against coalition military, three attacks against Iraqi security forces and just under three attacks against Iraqi civilians.
In the last 24 hours, the coalition conducted 1,620 raids, 21 offensive operations, 27 -- capturing 107 anti-coalition suspects and -- in the past 24 hours.
In the North, coalition forces conducted 179 patrols and two cordon-and-knock operations, and detained 17 individuals. Eighteen senior Ba'ath Party members were turned over to coalition forces by the Tall ‘Afar police chief on Wednesday. Two of those individuals have subsequently been released. The remainder are in police custody.
Coalition soldiers captured two targeted individuals during a cordon-and-knock operation in central Mosul yesterday. Two Yemeni students were captured.
In the north central zone, coalition forces conducted 313 patrols and eight raids against anti-coalition forces, and captured 38 individuals.
As part of Operation Ivy Blizzard, over the past two days, Task Force Iron Horse soldiers targeted numerous locations and people in the city of Samarra. Soldiers conducted 19 raids, captured 111 personnel, 15 of whom were targeted as prominent anti-coalition activists. And as Operation Ivy Blizzard continues, Task Force Iron Horse will work with the legitimate Samarran authorities to begin civil-military operations. Those operations will include infrastructure repair, training of Iraqi police and training of Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members.
The Coalition Provisional Authority has committed over $2-1/2 million to training and equipping the police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, and over $5 million for infrastructure repair. The city of Samarra, it should be noted, requires significant public utility and infrastructure improvement, as the former regime allowed the city's municipal utilities to crumble into disrepair.
In the Baghdad area of operations, Operation Iron Justice continues. Last evening coalition soldiers captured 28 fuel trucks, nine propane trucks and 20 personnel illegally dispensing and selling black-market fuel in a south Baghdad neighborhood.
Let me provide a roll-up thus far of Operation Iron Justice. Since its initiation on the 1st of December, coalition forces have conducted 63 battalion-level operations and 9,364 patrols. Of those patrols, 729 were joint patrols with the Iraqi police.
The task force has captured 21 individuals for auto theft, 10 for kidnapping, nine for counterfeiting and 40 for black-marketing of fuel. The unit has also conducted -- confiscated 28 fuel trucks, nine propane trailers, extensive weapons and ammunition, including 12 surface-to-air missiles; had captured 402 personnel and killed 24.
In the 82nd sector of the West, coalition units conducted two cordon-and-searches, 174 patrols, and captured 12 enemy personnel. Ten of those enemy were captured, along with 150,000 U.S. dollars, during a cordon-and-search of two target areas in Fallujah yesterday.
In the central south zone, coalition forces conducted 135 patrols and detained 50 personnel, all of whom were later deported to Iran.
The Spanish International Cooperation Agency delivered four ambulances, one mobile clinic truck and one ultrasound machine to the general hospital and the mother-childhood program in Ad Diwaniyah. Additionally, a 40-ton truck and a 10,000-liter tanker truck were delivered to a local dairy to support the distribution of milk.
In the Southeast, coalition forces conducted 270 patrols and two raids, and detained 13 personnel. Eight enemy suspected of anti- coalition activity were arrested during three soft-knock operations in Basra. Three AK-47s were also seized in the operations.
Thank you. Let me open it up for questions.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Gregor Mayer from the German Press Agency, DPA. Mr. Senor, Paul Bremer apparently was saying today in Basra that he was targeted for assassination attempt. Could you elaborate on that, please?
And General Kimmitt, it seems there was an incident this morning involving an American truck or tank truck near Abu Ghraib, and eyewitnesses saw eventually two soldiers killed. Is this confirmed or not?
MR. SENOR: To your first question, that is not what Ambassador Bremer said. Ambassador Bremer was asked if there was an attack on him or his traveling party on December 6th, and he just confirmed that it was true that there was an attack. There was no mention of it being a targeted assassination. On December 6th, I can confirm that there was an attack on Ambassador Bremer's traveling party, as he indicated earlier today. It was on return -- while he was returning from an impromptu meeting. It was a meeting that was not on his schedule. It was arranged at the last moment. He is fine. He is unharmed. The same for all those traveling with him. Nobody was injured. And we are moving on.
GEN. KIMMITT: As to the report of an attack in the vicinity of Abu Ghraib, we can't confirm that. We have read the press reports and have tried most of the afternoon to try to confirm that.
We have an accident, an IED attack on a convoy further west of Abu Ghraib, in the vicinity of the town of Hit. That was a convoy from the 3rd ACR that was hit by an explosive device west of Ar Ramadi, just east of al-Hit. And we know that we have two wounded in action that were returned to duty. But we have read that report through the press about an incident with a tanker in the vicinity of Abu Ghraib. We cannot confirm it although we have talked to all the units that are in that area and they can't confirm it either.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q (Off mike.)
MR. SENOR: Sure. There's an ongoing investigation right now. And for that reason, and in the interest of maintaining operational security, both in terms of what happened and going forward, there are a number of these details that we cannot release at this point. If there are more than we can release in the future, we will.
But like I said, his party was traveling. It was an impromptu meeting. It was not scheduled. It did not appear on his schedule. Nobody knew about the meeting. We have reason to believe that it was just a random, opportunistic attack not necessarily specifically targeted at him. But it's premature at this point to make that conclusion. It's a determination that's going to come out in the course of the investigation, and we'd like to let that play out.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. SENOR: Can you turn on your mike, please?
Q I think two weeks after the fact, it's reasonable to ask -- I don't see how security is threatened by asking if any of the vehicles were hit. Were explosives -- was it explosives and gun shots, just gun shots? I mean, it's two weeks later. I think it's reasonable to ask how serious it was.
MR. SENOR: It's two weeks later (now ?). Sure. I will defer to those who are in charge of Ambassador Bremer's security and those who are leading the investigation as to what is safe or not safe to release two weeks later. It's not a judgment that I am prepared to make. But I can tell you that Ambassador Bremer was not injured, he's unharmed, the entire party he was traveling with was unharmed, they moved along. He's been traveling the country since then. As I indicated in my opening statement, he was in Basra today. So his movements and his schedule and his general operational activity day to day has not changed.
Q Tatiana Anderson (sp), CNN. Have there been any discoveries of infiltrations within the CPA or bodies associated with the CPA that might lead to the leakage of pertinent information, speaking of this Bremer incident?
MR. SENOR: Well, we have a thorough vetting process -- the coalition -- for everybody who works there, Iraqi and non-Iraqi. When there are errors in the vetting process, we seek to rectify it immediately. But we are very confident in the process we have.
But with regard to this specific incident -- and I just remind you it was not on his schedule. Nobody knew about it. There was an impromptu meeting that was decided upon at the last moment. He was returning from the meeting. So there aren't parties that had advance knowledge of it. That's what leads us to believe that it was probably a random target of attack.
It was in an area of town that is frequently the target of attacks. So attacks occur there all the time, and he happened to drive through it. You know, that's what we know at this point. It's premature to go further than that.
Q But there's been no discoveries of any other infiltrations on any other level?
MR. SENOR: Not to my knowledge, no.
Q (Name inaudible) -- Voice of America. Two weeks ago, which is the time of the attack, is about the time that Donald Rumsfeld was in the country. Was the meeting with him? Was he in the country or nearby?
MR. SENOR: I again don't want to get into too many specifics. I can say it was the day that Secretary Rumsfeld was here. But Secretary Rumsfeld was not in the traveling party when Ambassador Bremer's vehicles were hit.
Q Acile Tabara from Agence France Presse. Could -- (off mike) --
STAFF: Microphone, please.
MR. SENOR: You need your microphone. I'm sorry. Once -- no, you just turn it --
Q (Off mike) -- Saddam -- is he still being interrogated? Is he cooperating? Could we have any details?
MR. SENOR: Saddam Hussein remains in coalition custody in a safe location.
Q Chris Hogg, BBC News. General, there is a report this morning that 260 Iraqi policemen have been killed since the end of hostilities. Can you confirm that figure?
And can you also explain why, when you were saying yesterday that attacks are increasing on Iraqi civilians, what criteria you use to define whether a shooting, say, is an attack by insurgents, rather than just an ordinary crime?
GEN. KIMMITT: The number that we are operating under right now is that we have approximately 116 Iraqi security service personnel that have given their life since the beginning of May. I don't think we have any other data that would suggest it's 250.
With regards to your second question, we receive reports from units in the field when they come upon IED explosions, traffic accidents, so on and so forth, and we try to make a determination on the ground whether those were routine accidents, whether that potentially could have been criminal activity, or whether we believe it was as a result of deliberate attacks on those persons.
We work with the IPS, the Iraqi Police Service, in that region before we send those numbers up -- before those numbers are sent up to our Joint Operations Center.
We have the same concern that you do that some of those numbers might be criminal, rather than terrorist attacks or former regime elements. We have the same concern that it might be sectarian violence. So we try to look at it carefully to make that determination, along with the Iraqi police.
Q So when you look at that data, can you give us a sense -- you say these things are increasing. Are they kidnappings? Are they shootings? Are they IEDs?
GEN. KIMMITT: For the most part, they're -- the number of IED attacks and some shootings seem to be increasing in certain areas.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Tom Lasseter, Knight Ridder. Three questions. The first: The 50 people deported to Iran -- could you say specifically where they were when they were taken into custody, you know, sort of what they were up to, who they are, sort of the circumstances surrounding that?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, this is part of the ongoing routine border patrol operations being run in Central South and Southeast. This not an unusual number nor a very large number. This happens fairly frequently. It is people that will be coming in from Iran with improper documentation, improper credentials. We have that problem in that region. We also have that same problem on the border with Jordan, the border with Syria, the border with Saudi Arabia.
Q And so that was the case in this instance? It was just a matter of their papers?
GEN. KIMMITT: Just routine. Absolutely.
Q Okay. The second question is, could you say what part of town Bremer was in when this attack took place?
MR. SENOR: No, we cannot. I can tell you that it was in Baghdad and it was in an area of Baghdad that has frequently been the location of similar attacks in the past.
Q And you spoke yesterday and just now of increased attacks against civilians, General. Could you characterize -- is this any sort of particular group of civilians? Does it seem to be nondiscriminate in the civilians that are being attacked? And --
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah --
Q Yeah. I'm sorry.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. Good question. That was also asked last night as well. We don't have either anecdotal or factual information to suggest that the former regime elements, the terrorists are targeting any specific group. We think what is going on more than anything else is this is an opportunity for the former regime elements to send a clear message to the people of Iraq that "we have the capability to reach out and touch you," the old terrorist adage of "kill one, terrorize a thousand." The purpose is quite simple. They're trying to convince the people of Iraq that they can't trust the coalition, that they can't depend on the coalition, they can't depend on their own security services. They are intentionally trying to crate terror in the minds of the Iraqi civilians so that they have a better chance of attracting them to their cause, whatever that may be. They have continued to do this. We continue to strike back. And they will not succeed.
Q Do they seem to be paying particular attention to those working for the government -- ministries and so forth?
MR. SENOR: Again, we've seen some evidence that government officials are being targeted, small numbers, but again, at this point that's primarily anecdotal rather than statistically relevant.
Q Thank you.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Thanks. Larry Kaplow with Cox Newspapers. Just two questions. One, Dan, is this the first and only time an attack has been mounted on Ambassador Bremer in some form? And the other question is, do you guys have any information on the bombing early this morning at the -- what was probably a SCIRI office or a SCIRI location in Al Jihad?
MR. SENOR: On your first question, it is the first attack that has been received by Ambassador Bremer's traveling party. I have no way of knowing if it was the first attempt. But I will say Ambassador Bremer has very thorough and comprehensive security forces and mechanisms in place whenever there is a movement, and we have a lot of confidence in those security personnel and those mechanisms. And in this particular case, they worked. Ambassador Bremer left the situation completely unharmed, as did his entire traveling party.
GEN. KIMMITT: As to the second incident, like the fuel tanker that supposedly was attacked this morning, we cannot find any evidence of a security building that has been attacked in Baghdad. I'm not saying it did not happen, but we've had all of the units who have responsibility for areas that include buildings belonging to SCIRI go out and check, and we can't find an evidence of that. We would appreciate, because we don't know where that report had come from, we would appreciate if the news agency that put that out would contact us so at least we could go down and validate whether that event did or did not happen.
Q If I could follow, just to make sure we're talking about the same thing, it was on -- it's been on networks and I went to it. I can't tell you exactly where, but it's Al Jihad. And if you ask anyone there, they'll show you. It's like a pancaked building now.
GEN. KIMMITT: Okay. Could I get together with you after this? Because I'd like that information.
MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?
Q Steve Franklin, Chicago Tribune. You said earlier that there's been an increase in hazard pay. For the entire security services, all 60,000? And we're talking about what percent increase? And the second question, once again regarding the second attack on a Shi'a area and group, is the army providing special attention to the Shia's that have been targeted increasingly?
MR. SENOR: As far as hazard pay is concerned, we are in the process of finalizing the details of what the pay schedule will be and to all of whom it will apply, and then we will announce it. But yes, it will go beyond just the new Iraqi army, to your question. It will apply to a majority of the Iraqi security forces that are currently deployed and in training.
The question about the Shi'a --
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah. The Facilities Protection Services that works for the ministries has primary responsibility for facilities protection. I can't answer the specific question of what units, if any, were in charge of guarding that specific building, but we do have a unit that, whichever building we're talking about, was responsible for protection inside that area, for providing a safe and secure environment. But whether they had specific point responsibility for that building, I can't answer that question.
Q I guess my question, since the leading imam was killed in August and they've had increased targeting, is there any thinking that these may be one group that has received the bulk of these attacks?
GEN. KIMMITT: I can't answer that. I know that we have not had a specific request from any political organization for additional security at their facilities.
MR. SENOR: But I will add that the broader trend we see are attacks by the elements of the former regime, foreign terrorists and other bitter-enders against Iraqi political leaders, because they know what the Iraqi people know, which is the coalition is handing over more and more authority and responsibility for the day-to-day operations of running the Iraqi government. And that's going to lead up to this summer when we hand over complete sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And so Iraqi leaders, Iraqi political leaders are, obviously, a natural target for those who want this to fail, for those enemies of freedom that want to turn the clock back on the Iraqi people. And whether they are members of the Governing Council or the deputy mayor of Baghdad or Iraqi police officials, their focus are those individuals who have stepped up in a leadership way and are investing in the new Iraq, especially given the accelerated timeline to sovereignty.
Q Sudarsan Raghavan, Knight-Ridder Newspapers. Could you please give us more details on the two Yemeni students who were captured? Were they foreign fighters or involved in any other way in guerrilla attacks? And also, how many foreign nationals have been detained to date? And of those, how many are you absolutely certain are foreign fighters?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the issue of the Yemeni students that we captured in the vicinity of Mosul yesterday, we don't have specific knowledge of their background. They are being interrogated at this time to find out that type of information.
Approximately 2(00) to 300 personnel who are holding passports other than those of Iraqi citizens are being currently held in detention. With regards to how many we can positively affirm that they were foreign fighters, they were foreign, they were fighting us; that would be a suggestion that that would lead them to be called "foreign fighters."
Q (Off mike.)
MR. SENOR: Turn on your microphone, please.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. SENOR: You need to turn on your microphone.
Q How big of a threat do you really think foreign fighters are to, you know, the process here?
GEN. KIMMITT: They're a threat, but the vast majority of the personnel that we have in detention for activities against the coalition, for activities against Iraqi citizens, remain personnel from this country.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q There have been two incidents against elements of SCIRI in the past couple of days, few days. Is this reflective of rising tensions against the Shi'a, or is this reflective of rising tensions against those who are working with the coalition?
And General, if I could just clarify your knowledge about this morning's bombing.
GEN. KIMMITT: On the SCIRI building, I've just been given a report here, and I think we need to validate it a little more. It said the building did not blow up. The Iraqi Police Service reported to 1st Armored Division that the building collapsed due to structural integrity flaws. I don't know what that means. I think we need to follow up on that.
MR. SENOR: To your first question, any sort of ethnic tension or regional tensions that you see in play, that manifest itself in terms of attacks against political leaders from a region or from a particular political or religious group is more a function of people who want this project, who want this experiment to fail -- building a democracy here in the heart of Iraq, in the heart of this region. And they are targeting the people who are going to make this succeed, and those are Iraqi leaders.
Q I have two sort of unrelated questions. First, are you aware of any other buildings in town that have just spontaneously collapsed without any outside help?
And second, what would you say that the status is of -- I'm interested in the black market weapons trade, not necessarily related to insurgency, but in -- basically, in your ability to put a stop to what has been sort of a long-term tradition in Iraq, even under the old regime, and sort of the status of that trade.
MR. SENOR: On the arms trade, we are taking a number of steps, most of which I don't want to disclose right now publicly. We are taking a number of steps now to clamp down on the black market trade of weapons and weapons caches that are left unguarded around the country. We recognize that is a problem, and it is one that we are focused on.
GEN. KIMMITT: And regarding your first question, let's first of all find out -- let's get some people on site to find out what happened in that building before we can sort of jump to a conclusion that we have significant structural flaws in most of the buildings within Iraq.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q General Kimmitt, Jim Sciutto, ABC News. Early in the week General Dempsey told some of us that the military had identified 14 resistance cells in Baghdad and that the military had conducted successful, he said, operations against about half a dozen of them. That was on Tuesday.
In the days since then, particularly acting on intel acquired from Saddam Hussein, can you report any more successful operations against resistance cells in Baghdad?
GEN. KIMMITT: I can't speak specifically -- right now, the operations that are being conducted by 1st Armored Division are primarily going against financing flows, financial flows, black marketers, as I've talked about -- fuel, some weapons, some counterfeiting.
But I think it's important to put in context that there seems to be a suggestion that the capture of Saddam Hussein is going to lead to intelligence that leads to more offensive operations. I would sort of put it around a different direction. Offensive operations, based on intelligence, goes out and gets us targets. Those targets provide more intelligence, so we can continue our offensive operations.
Any time we have a successful offensive operation, to include the capture of High Value Target Number One Saddam Hussein, one would expect that there will be intelligence that flows from that, for which we can carry on our offensive operations. That's as much as I'm prepared to say about that.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q When you spoke about the operations in Iron Justice stemming the financial flow, is that the financial flow the coalition believes is going to aid insurgents, or are these just folks making money off the black market in general?
GEN. KIMMITT: Both.
MR. SENOR: That's it. Thanks, everybody.
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