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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director For Coalition Operations; and Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
May 26, 2004 9:10 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            MR. SENOR:  Good afternoon.  I just have a couple of items and then General Kimmitt has his opening briefing.  And then we will be happy to take your questions.

 

            Earlier today Ambassador Bremer held his weekly recurring meeting with the Governing Council.  This is something he does, as I said, on a weekly basis.  Discussions continued about the formation of the interim government, which is being led by Mr. Brahimi.  Later today -- in fact, right now -- Ambassador Bremer is having other meetings with other individual members of the Governing Council, including the current president, Sheik Ghazi.  These are individual member meetings.

 

            Following his full GC meeting earlier today, Ambassador Bremer held an event here to announce the formation of the special task force on compensation for victims of the former regime.  He cited the countless Iraqi families who suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein and announced this task force.  Ambassador Bremer also announced that Dr. Malik Dohan al-Hassan, the president of the Iraqi Bar Association, has accepted our invitation to head the task force.

 

            Many Iraqis lost jobs, were imprisoned or were executed because they were accused of having opposed the regime, refused to join the Ba'ath party or simply were related to someone considered by the previous regime as an opponent.  The history of these abuses is complex and involves many thousands of people.  The coalition is establishing this task force to ensure the responsibility for judgments about how justice is to be done  will be taken by Iraqis. The coalition is setting aside initial funding from the Development Fund for Iraq to bolster this important effort on behalf of the Iraqi people.  The initial set-aside is for $25 million.

 

            Dr. Malik, along with two assistants that he will select, will work with victims and with ministries to define the types of injustice for which compensation should be provided.  Other than those issues already being dealt with in other areas, such as the Iraqi Property Claims Commission, we will also consider how individuals can demonstrate their eligibility for such compensation, make recommendations about the level of compensation that should be received and the mechanisms through which it should be delivered. 

 

            General Kimmitt.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Good afternoon.  The coalition continues operations to establish a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people.  To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,874 patrols, 24 offensive operations, 40 Air Force and Navy combat sorties, and captured 55 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            On Friday there will be a release of between 550 and 600 detainees from Abu Ghraib.

 

            In the northern zone of operations, coalition Public Works Team delivered over $1.1 million U.S. worth of USAID donated and CERP funded equipment and supplies to the Nineveh water and sewer department in order to repair breaking infrastructure.

 

            Today 156 former regime police officers graduated from the three- week transition integration program course in Mosul.  To date, 14,628 police officers have been retrained.  The TIP training educates former policemen and reenforces democratic policing methods, emphasizing respect for the rule of law, as well as training, professional standards of conduct.

 

            In the north central zone of operations, anti-coalition forces driving a black Opel attacked the Al-Khalis chief of police with small-arms fire in Baqubah.  The chief of police sustained a gunshot wound and later died at the Baqubah hospital.  His driver was also killed.

 

            In Baghdad last night, coalition forces conducted operations in Sadr City against Muqtada militia and other anti-Iraqi forces.

 

            As you can see from the story board, these yellow dots represent 21 separate engagements in Sadr City against small teams firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, and all of these operations resulted in no casualties to coalition personnel or equipment.

 

            In the western zone of operations, Fallujah has been quiet with (sic) any cease-fire violations over the past 24 hours, nor have there been any cease-fire violations since the 3rd of May.

 

            Reconstruction efforts continue, with over 1,200 Fallujans employed in reconstruction projects, not including those in the Fallujah Brigade.  Over the coming weeks, the coalition will hire an additional 1,900 Fallujah residents.

 

            In the central south zone of operations last night, the town of Karbala was quiet, and Iraqi police continued to extend control throughout the city.  Yesterday coalition forces conducted a search of two buildings near the Mukhaiyam mosque, finding a significant weapons cache.  The ordnance was blown in place by an explosive ordnance team, which may have led to the false reports of coalition demolition operations in the vicinity of this mosque.

 

            In Najaf last night, coalition forces conducted operations, engaging forces in five separate engagements.  At 0330, 10 enemy personnel were observed carrying a mortar tube, RPGs and AK-47s near the cemetery.  At 0340, two enemy were observed running towards the mortar site and were also engaged.  At 0358 enemy personnel with RPGs and AK-47s were observed loading a pickup truck with ammunition and weapons, and at 4:10 a two four-man -- two four-man RPG teams were engaged.  As a result of these engagements, there were no damage or injuries to coalition forces or equipment.

 

            Also in Najaf last night, coalition forces conducted operations to capture key Muqtada militia leadership targets.  One target captured, Said Riyad al-Nouri (sp), is considered a key lieutenant of   Muqtada al-Sadr and is related to Muqtada by marriage.  He is being handed over to Iraqi authorities to comply with an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection with the murder of Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei in April 2003.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, the Basra Iraqi Civil Defense Corps reported that there was a protest gathering outside the oil metering station on the al-Faw Peninsula southeast of Basra.  The locals were protesting over a lack of fuel for the town's power generator.  The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps was deployed to ensure public order.  They requested and were provided coalition assistance, and the protest later dispersed peacefully.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes, sir.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Ali Nasser al-Korashi (ph) from Al Zaman and from Al Ahar (ph).  Mr. Kimmitt, Mr. Dan Senor, good afternoon.

 

            The citizens are demanding the release of the detainees.  Some of the detainees are innocent.  The Iraqis are happy now before the transfer of sovereignty on the 30th of June.  All Iraqis are demanding this.  How do you reply to this request?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We are certainly going through the process of reviewing all the case files on the detainees, and as we've said we are going to be releasing as many as 600 in the next few days.  But the fact remains we are not holding innocent personnel in detention.

 

            We have a very thorough process to screen those persons before we put them in detention.  The evidence is reviewed before a judge, and these persons are being held as security threats to the Iraqi people. These IEDs on the road don't appear by magic.  These VBIEDs don't explode by magic.  There are persons in this country who are an imperative security threat to the people of Iraq.  These are people who fire rocket-propelled grenades.  They fire mortars.  They fire small arms.  They kill innocent women and children.  They kill innocent Iraqi people.  They kill innocent coalition forces.

 

            When these people are found building bombs in their houses; when these people are found counterfeiting money and passing that money on to terrorist groups; when these people facilitate terrorist groups so they can go out and drive VBIEDs into Karbala, into Khalidiya, into the 14th Street Bridge, into Assassin's Gate, outside the convention center; we have a responsibility -- a moral responsibility -- to ensure those people are put in detention until they no longer are a security threat to the people of Iraq.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     Ayman Wylden (ph) with CNN.  Dan, there was some speculation that Mr. Shahristani will be named as the prime minister of Iraq.  I was wondering if you could comment on that and more about him, and if such an appointment does have the endorsement of the Governing Council.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah, my understanding is that initial report about Mr. Shahristani is incorrect and the report that there is actually a candidate nailed -- a candidate nailed down is incorrect as well.  I would refer you to the United Nations because it's Mr. Brahimi who has the lead on this effort.

 

            The initial report that ran in The Washington Post quoted mid- level State Department officials, I think anonymously, about Mr. Shahristani when in fact this effort is being led by senior-level U.N. officials on the ground here in Iraq.  So unless there are any statements or quotes attributed to any U.N. officials about who or who is not a front-runner, I would be very cautious about reading too much into them.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Abdu Nafa Jamil (sp) from Al- Hurriyah.  Mr. Dan, before the beginning of the military operation, the United States announced that these troops are targeting the regime itself because it constitutes a threat to the region, and this is true.  There was a boycott before -- there were economic sanctions before that, which lasted for 10 years.  What was the target of these economic sanctions?  Was it the Iraqi people or the Iraqi regime?  The United States promised to provide the requirements for the Iraqi people.  But these promises were not put into action, especially that the Iraqi people were in bad need for the collapse of this regime to provide these requirements.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I don't want to get into great detail about policy decisions made before the coalition arrived here.  I speak on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority.  But my understanding is that the sanctions could have ended at any time, had Saddam Hussein taken actions that were quite obvious and clear, to him and to everyone, to end the sanctions.  He himself was in a position to do so.  And those sanctions were directed at the regime, not at the Iraqi people.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  What are the priorities according to the coalition forces in providing security for the Iraqi people at this moment?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, the -- it is simply the requirement to provide a safe and secure environment inside of Iraq, so that the other three lines of operation -- reconstruction of the infrastructure, revitalization of the economy and passing of governance on to the people of Iraq -- can continue.  That is our priority.  That is our requirement.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  I have two questions, my first question to Mr. Dan and to Mr. Kimmitt.  Mr. Dan, the crisis of fuel has come again.  Why from time to time the crisis of fuel is coming back, especially that we are an oil-producing country?  My question to Mr. Kimmitt:  Yesterday night, at 12:00 at night, the American forces attacked an Iraqi police officer.  They attacked his home.  During the raid they threw hand grenades on this family and they are all in hospital now.  They are a good family; I know them. The coalition force has taken them.  They are in the al-Haziriyah (ph) area.  Do you have any knowledge about that?

 

            MR. SENOR:  On the oil infrastructure, Iraq right now -- and I'd refer you for the specific details to the Iraqi oil ministry -- but Iraq right now is producing well over 2 million barrels per day that -- or exceeded prewar levels.  The problem is the infrastructure is quite weak and we are engaged right now in a massive reconstruction effort to improve the quality of the infrastructure and the durability of the infrastructure.

 

            During the process, while it's being upgraded, the infrastructure is quite vulnerable to attacks.  The refinery infrastructure is vulnerable to attacks, the pipeline infrastructure is vulnerable to attacks; and therefore, those who are trying to turn the clock back on Iraq, trying to throw the reconstruction off course, those who are really enemies of a free Iraq and of the Iraqi people who are trying to take a big stab at the efforts to improve the Iraqi -- the economic situation of all Iraqis, have engaged in attacks against the oil infrastructure.  And until the reconstruction meets its goals, it will be vulnerable to these attacks.

 

            There's not a great deal of redundancy built into the system; there wasn't by Saddam Hussein.  There was virtually no maintenance put into the system, so this equipment was chronically under-invested in for decades and we're working on improving it, and we are doing our best.  And we think we are on track to continue the upward trend we've been on.  But from time to time, there will be setbacks when these attacks occur, and we are dealing with equipment and infrastructure that is in very poor shape because of the way it was taken care of under the former regime.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As for your points about the family last night being attacked, if we could get together after the press conference, you could give me the name of the family, where they live.  We could do some investigation.  I find it somewhat incredulous that we would have coalition forces throwing hand grenades at a family, so I -- we'll certainly take a look in, if you can give me that information. And we'll get an answer back to you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Thank you.  Mark Stone, ABC News.  Can you give us any numbers, a ratio of the number of people that -- of those that you're releasing from Abu Ghraib, those that have been released because they've served their time and those that are being released because it turns out they're innocent?

 

            And my second question refers to the command structure of the multinational force after June 30th.  The IGC president said today that some of the units of the Iraqi security forces will be under multinational command, but other units won't be.  Could you give us some clarification on that?

 

            And going further, how can you reconcile Secretary Powell's comments with those of Prime Minister Blair yesterday?  They appeared, in my view, to contradict themselves somewhat, with Mr. Blair suggesting that the Iraqis could veto any decision.

 

            MR. SENOR:  On the third point, I would refer you to the State Department for Secretary Powell's comments and refer you to No. 10 Downing in London for Prime Minister Blair.  We obviously have been clear about the command structure and how these issues will be addressed, but obviously it will also be addressed in a number of other fora, including the U.N. Security Council as we begin to work on the resolution.  So there will be time to work through all these issues.  But as for a specific difference, I haven't seen the different statements, so I don't want to comment on one statement against another.  I'd refer you to their respective offices.

 

            Q     I'm sorry, Dan.  Could you then -- you said you've made it clear before.  Could you just make it clear again, how do you see the command structure being?  Will the Iraqi security forces be able to veto any such decisions?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Let me go to your first question, the percentage of persons that were released because they've served their time.  That percentage is zero.  The number that were released because they were innocent?  That number, too, is zero.  Persons are held at Abu Ghraib because they are determined to be security threats, imminent security threats here in country.  That is a clear guideline established by the Geneva Conventions for the forces that are conducting operations inside any country, for example in this case the country of Iraq.

 

            If it is determined that they are an imminent threat to the security of this nation, then we have not only the authority, but the obligation to detain them, to keep them off the streets, to ensure that they're not out killing their fellow Iraqis, to make sure they're not out there building bombs, to make sure that they're not contributing to the deaths of over 350 Iraqi police, contributing to the deaths of over 100 to 200 Iraqi Civil Defense.  So we don't put them in Abu Ghraib to detain them for a period of time or to detain them until proven innocent.  They are deemed to be a security threat by a judge through multiple sources of evidence.  It's that simple.

 

            If they were innocent, they wouldn't be at Abu Ghraib.  If they were there serving time, that would be under the Iraqi court system. There is a review board that is set up that is done far more frequently than required by the Geneva Conventions where a board takes a look at that person's case.  And after a period of time, when those persons are deemed to no longer be a threat to the security of the nation, then they are released.

 

            On the issue of the command structure, let me go through that. It has not been firmly established in the post-30-June environment what the relationship will be.  Broadly, it will be a partnership, just like we have the coalition partners.  Right now we have a multinational force with a multinational force commander.  Every country that contributes to the coalition is part of that force.  In this case, it could well be that Iraq is considered another coalition partner.

 

            But just because you are a part of that coalition does not bind you to every decision made by the coalition commander.  There are national rules of engagement, where some units cannot participate because it exceeds what their nation permits them to do.  They have an opt-out clause.  Every nation that participates in this coalition has an opt-out clause.  It could very well be that that is the same structure that is determined to work best in terms of the relationship between the Iraqi forces and the multinational forces.

 

            But these are what are going to be hammered out over the days and weeks ahead, with an eye towards making sure that we have a solid, understood chain of command between the multinational forces and the Iraqi security forces as part of that broad partnership that we will take forward from 1 July on.

 

            Q     Can I just follow up?  There have been some suggestions that large operational matters will be under the command of whoever is in charge, the American general, but that -- sorry -- but that -- and that Iraqis would be -- must approve this, but that smaller, sort of self-defense issues would -- the Iraqis would not have to approve. Does that --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Again, these are the kind of discussions that they're going to be having in the next couple of weeks as they hammer out these points to take forward.

 

            Q     So as yet, it's not be worked out?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  As yet it's not been determined.  But we still have some time.  And there's no doubt in our mind that this will all be resolved by 30 June.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And I would add that the United States has had relationships with several countries, some relationships lasting some 50 years, whether it's with Japan or North Korea (sic) or Germany, where we form these sorts of partnerships.  And we have no doubt that we'll be able to work out an arrangement with the Iraqi government. Everybody seems to want it.  So I think it's very manageable.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And every time we do that, the countries that participate in the coalitions, whether they're coalitions of the willing or whether they're coalitions or alliances such as NATO, every country retains sovereign decisions over their force that they can invoke at any time.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Charlie?

 

            Q     Thanks, Dan.  Two questions.  Can you talk a little bit about efforts to reimburse the families of Iraqis who -- innocent Iraqis who are killed in coalition operations?  That's first.

 

            And second, General Kimmitt, would you say that you're making progress with Muqtada al-Sadr?  Do you think that, you know, there will be some sense of increased urgency to have this wrapped up by June 30th?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  On the first question, about compensation for noncombatants, there is a process by which noncombatants can put forward compensation claims to the coalition.  That happens regularly and routinely.  I think the last time I reported on it, by that point, there had been over 11,000 claims on the part of noncombatants, and somewhere on the order of $2.5 million had been paid out.

 

            So there is a process.  There are many different ways.  Whether it's done formally through the compensation or commanders invoking their own authorities, compensation is a regular and routine part of what the coalition does on a daily basis on those rare instances where there is effect upon noncombatants or their property.

 

            Second question --

 

            MR. SENOR:  What was the second question?

 

            Q      Are you making progress with al-Sadr?  Right.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Al-Sadr certainly has less forces today than he did yesterday.  Al-Sadr certainly has one less lieutenant today than he did yesterday.  One more person associated with the murder of Ayatollah Majid al-Khoei is now going to face Iraqi justice.  We are constantly chipping away at his militia, his illegal militia that was attempting to occupy Karbala by force and had for a long period of time.  We are chipping away at the forces that attempted to take over the cities of Diwaniyah, al Kut, Samarra.  We are continuing to chip away his militia that is there in Najaf, as we saw from operations that we held last night.

 

            We still are committed to finding a peaceful resolution to this problem.  But until that peaceful resolution comes forward that shows Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraqi custody to face Iraqi justice for his part in the murder of Ayatollah al-Khoei and the disarmament of his militia, we will continue to conduct military operations directed against his forces.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yeah.

 

            Q     Yes, hi.  Steve Komarow with USA Today.  Two unrelated questions.

 

            One is following up on the question last night about the airport. I realize it's impractical right now, but on June 30th could the sovereign government here order the U.S. to vacate the airport so it would be a civilian airport again?

 

            And the second question is if there's any comment on the Amnesty International report that's come out that's quite critical of the U.S.-led coalition's performance here.

 

            MR. SENOR:  In answer to your question about the airport, we all have an interest here in getting this airport reopened, and it's not  an issue of whether or not coalition forces are located there or not. It's whether or not the airport is up to international standards in every single area in order -- in every single area related to civil aviation in order to be reopened, and whether or not the security assessment around the reopening of the airport gives us enough confidence and gives the Iraqis enough confidence to reopen it.

 

            We all have an interest in getting this airport reopened, but it's not an issue of coalition forces being located there.  That's not -- coalition forces being located there is not the reason the airport isn't open today.  The reason the airport isn't open today is because everyone agrees, including the Ministry of Transportation, that there are standards that need to be met, international standards in the area of civil aviation, and those right now are not all met.  And there's a security issue that needs to be addressed as well.

 

            Q     I'm not so interested in the practicalities of it, I'm just interested in the --

 

            MR. SENOR:  You're interested in the theory.

 

            Q     -- in the sovereignty question.  I mean, it's a national asset, and I mean, they in theory could say, okay, the U.S., you can have that airport and we're going to make something else into our national airport. But I'm wondering if they have the authority under the --

 

            MR. SENOR:  After June 30th, Steve, the Iraqis will have sovereignty over this entire country and they will have control of their assets and they will have control of their national resources. We can start to cite what about this example or what about that example, what about this facility, what about that asset?  I'll tell you right now, our working assumption is that the Iraqis will be in control of all their assets and all their national resources.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     I'm sorry -- on the Amnesty International.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I haven't seen the report.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I haven't read it either.

 

            Q     It's just been in the news, a critical report.  But if you don't have it -- you haven't seen it --

 

            MR. SENOR:  Did it just come out today?

 

            Q     Apparently so.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Have you seen it?

 

            Q      I've only read the news reports.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Oh, okay.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  General Kimmitt, the release of detainees from detention centers -- is it a part of your plan to improve the political situation after the scandal of Abu Ghraib abuse?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, not at all.  It was always our plan to accelerate the review boards.  We've been putting that into place for quite a few months now.  That was not necessarily prompted by any other purpose, other than the fact that we wanted to try to keep the population size at a somewhat manageable level.

 

            With the increased amount of operations we had been running over the November-December-January time period, we were getting to the point where the number of persons that we were bringing in was beyond the capacity of our current review process.  So we brought in -- and accelerated the review boards.  We're taking a look at their particular situation, and those persons who, as I said earlier, are deemed no longer to be an imminent threat to the safety of the Iraqi people, those people are allowed to go home.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  I have two questions concerning the trial of the American soldiers who are accused of the abuse in Abu Ghraib.

 

            We have seen the first court-martial in which Sivits was condemned.  We want an explanation about the high court-martial which will level accusations and try the other soldiers accused of abusing detainees, other than the court-martial which we have seen on the 19th of this month.  We have different kinds of court-martials.  We want to know the details of the decisions taken by the court- martials.

 

            My second question:  You have been releasing detainees.  When you release them, do you give them back their items, their properties?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yes, it is our practice that on any property that is not obviously a threat -- for those that we pick up with explosives, those that we pick with up detonators, those that we pick up with triggering devices, we're certainly not going to give that property back to the persons.  But their personal belongings -- their money, their wallets, so on and so forth -- of course we're going to give that back to the persons when we release them from Abu Ghraib.

 

            On the question you asked about the other court-martials, they are now still in the process.  We have not put a date forward on when they will be held.  Very simply, those are higher-level, as you mentioned, court-martials.  They are general court-martials, as opposed to the special court-martial, which Jeremy Sivits was tried at.

 

            As a result, those take a little more preparation time, because the consequences potentially could be more serious.  There are other requirements to build it, takes a little more time to prepare it.

 

            But we will still continue to push forward to have those here, so that we make them as open and transparent during the general court- martials that we did during the special court-martial of Jeremy C. Sivits.  So we would expect that when those days come, we will follow the exact same procedures in terms of transparency, in terms of access, in terms of reporting for those later court-martials that you saw during the first court-martial on the 19th.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  But General Kimmitt, I have an observation here.  We have seen the release of detainees.  Most of the detainees released said that they didn't take back their items, they didn't receive any of their items.  They are now demanding their items.  I have talked to the Governing Council about this issue, and I am repeating this question before you.  The detainees need these items.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Yeah.  And let me repeat my answer.  It is our practice that those personal items that were captured at the same time as the detainee will be returned to the detainee when he or she is released.

 

            If it does not happen, there is a method by which the detainee can submit a form to the detention authority for a compensation, if that can be proven.

 

            I don't -- there is typically a very careful chain of custody on any property found on one of our detainees.  And if you could give me a particular example of a person who is claiming that they were released without their items, we would be glad to take you through that chain of custody or, more importantly, take that person through the chain of custody, so that the unit that was participating in that capture can show them in fact what they picked up at the site and what has been returned to them.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     Yes, Mike Georgy from Reuters.  General, are you still investigating the case of Nicholas Berg, how -- you know, his death, et cetera?  And returning to the prison, are you compensating those people that appeared in the photographs, and how are you ensuring that the guys you're releasing now aren't going to turn around and take up arms after these abuses?  And just one last question.  Can you comment on the bombing today apparently northeast of Baghdad?  I'm just trying to get details.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Okay.  I've got a short memory.  You might have to help me with those last two.

 

            We still have two persons in custody that we picked up that we believe have some knowledge or activity with the killing of Nicholas Berg.  They have not been released.  They were originally picked up with two other persons who have subsequently been released.  Of course we are still investigating the brutal slaying of Mr. Berg, and we will continue to make that one of our priorities in the days and weeks ahead.  We are hoping that something will break out of this -- these two persons that we currently have under custody, but we'll see where that takes us.

 

            On the compensation for the persons that you saw in the photographs, I know that there have been some discussions back in Washington, D.C. about the pros and cons of that.  I believe that Washington, D.C. is the one that's going to make the ultimate decision on that, so I'd refer that question to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

 

            On the explosion today in northeast Baghdad, I know that there was a bombing today in southwest Baghdad, kind of the other direction. Is that what you're referring to, at about 8:20 this morning.

 

            Q     I heard something northeast of Baghdad.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, we did have -- sadly, we had three Iraqis killed and nine wounded, including two Iraqi police officers, when an IED detonated in southwest Baghdad about 8:20 this morning.  Two of those killed and one of the wounded are suspected to have been involved in the setting off of the explosion, and the surviving suspect has been taken into Iraqi custody.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Ahmed Jamal al-Delani (ph) from Al- Iraqiyah.  Assad Kadhem, the correspondent of Al-Iraqiyah, was killed on the 19th of April without any reason.  What is the results of investigation in this respect?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  If you're referring to the unfortunate shooting of the Al-Iraqiyah reporters, vicinity Samarra at that time, I don't have the results of that investigation.  Let me see what I can find out for you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Holu Dizaya (ph) from Ibn Al Balad (ph).  General Kimmitt, you said that you are working to provide security for the Iraqis and you said that here were 21 engagements in al-Sadr City.  The reason behind these engagements is the presence of the American patrols in this city.  Why don't you withdraw these patrols outside of the city and let the Iraqi police patrol the city?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The Iraqi police are absolutely the right persons to patrol the city.  When they have sufficient capability, they will be the ones to patrol the city.  But if we were to send the Iraqi police in last night, they would have been 21 engagements and they would have been less armed than the American forces, the coalition forces.  They probably would have taken far more casualties.  They would not have had the capability.  The American forces also had helicopters and support.  So the coalition forces, who were working side by side with the Iraqi police last night in Sadr City, who have the responsibility to ensure those rocket-propelled grenades and those small arms that were fired at them last night were not fired at innocent civilians inside of Sadr city.

 

            But if you're suggesting that somehow if the coalition moves out that the situation would be calm, the situation would be peaceful, I would refer you to the cities such as Karbala and Najaf, where the coalition forces were not operating; Muqtada's militia went in, took over those cities, held those cities hostage, stopped the tourism traffic inside those two cities.  And when the coalition forces finally come in and uprooted the Muqtada militia from those cities, the people were quite grateful.

 

            But I don't think that we can abandon our responsibilities to provide a safe and secure environment everywhere in Sadr City, abandon our responsibilities to provide a safe and secure environment in the city of Baghdad nor inside the city of Iraq (sic).  And any suggestion that somehow the departure of the coalition forces from a place such as that would somehow cause that place to turn peaceful, I think we have seen numerous cases when just the opposite has happened.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Last question.  Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     Yeah, General Kimmitt, I wondered if you had any statistics about the number of civilians or militia men who were killed overnight in Sadr City and Najaf?  Thank you.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  It is our understanding that no civilians were killed and a large number of Muqtada's militia were killed.

 

            Q     Can you be more specific about what "a large number" is, please?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Sadly, a very large number, a very large number of probably wayward youths that were somehow convinced, corrupted,   connived by persons such as Muqtada al-Sadr into picking up weapons against the coalition and against their fellow Iraqis.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thanks, everybody.

 

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