MR. SENOR: Good afternoon.
Earlier today Ambassador Bremer issued a statement on the death of Iraqi Governing Council President Izzedine Salim. That was e- mailed out. It is also available at the press center if you would like a copy of it.
I'll just run through Ambassador Bremer's schedule over the last 24 hours. He returned early this morning from a trip up north, where he met with several of the Kurdish Iraqi leaders as the Governing Council and the CPA and the U.N. representatives here continue to work on their wide consultations in pursuit of formation of the interim government.
Later this morning Ambassador Bremer attended a meeting of the Governing Council that came together following news of the death of Mr. Izzedine Salim. Later in the morning, Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez held their regular meeting with the Iraqi Ministerial Committee on National Security. Earlier this afternoon, Ambassador Bremer was at a short meeting here with the new acting president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Sheik Ghazi. And then later on in the day, Ambassador Bremer visited with family members of Mr. Izzedine Salim to pay his respects.
That's all I have. General Kimmitt.
GEN. KIMMITT: Good afternoon.
The coalition continues offensive operations to ensure a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty. To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 2,000 patrols, 26 offensive operations, 46 Air Force and Navy sorties, and captured 57 anti-coalition suspects.
In the northern area of operations, 47 police officers from Najaf began a weeklong advanced skills training program at the Irbil police academy. This training will enhance their capabilities and provide officers from both regions the opportunity to build better relationships and share effective tactics, techniques and procedures.
In Baghdad, at 0955 this morning a suicide car bomb exploded near a coalition checkpoint in central Baghdad, killing seven civilians, to include the current Governing Council president, Mr. Izzedine Salim. Five civilians and two soldiers were wounded in this attack. A quick reaction force and medical personnel were on the scene within minutes of the attack, along with Iraqi emergency responders and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps members. Coalition military forces join in denouncing this horrible crime and ask Iraqi citizens to contact telephone number 778-4076 with information leading to the arrest of any attackers.
The Iraqi Survey Group confirmed today that a 155-millimeter artillery round containing sarin nerve agent had been found. The round had been rigged as an IED, which was discovered by a U.S. force convoy. A detonation occurred before the IED could be rendered inoperable. This produced a very small dispersal of agent. The round was an old binary type requiring the mixing of two chemical components in separate sections of the cell before the deadly agent is produced. The cell is designed to work after being fired from an artillery piece. Mixing and dispersal of the agent from such a projectile as an IED is very limited. The former regime had declared all such rounds destroyed before the 1991 Gulf War. Two explosive ordnance team members were minor exposure to nerve agent as a result of the partial detonation of the round.
In the western zone of operations, the situation in Al Anbar remains stable. The reduction of hostilities in Fallujah has seemingly had a calming effect across the area. Yesterday coalition forces hosted 43 government, religious, medical and ICDC leaders at the Camp Ramadi detention facility and 17 leaders at the Habbaniya facility. The visit was well received, with positive feedback from the local leaders. There was also one prisoner released to a sheik as a goodwill gesture.
Coalition forces met with the Fallujah Brigade leadership today and continue to plan with the brigade for future joint patrols in Fallujah. There were no violations of the cease-fire agreement, but neither were there any weapons turned in during this period.
In the central-south zone of operations, coalition forces defending the buildings near the Mukhaiyam Mosque in Karbala continued to be attacked with sniper, RPG and mortar fire. There were numerous engagements last night originating from the Iranian quarter in the downtown area of Karbala near the two holy shrines.
Polish multinational division reports Muqtada militia elements are staying close to the shrine of al-Imam al-Hussein, as they are aware of concerns that the shrines not be damaged. Sounds of fighting in the downtown area could be heard for much of the night and the Polish forces estimate 17 Muqtada militia killed in the vicinity of the shrine's area; 13 killed in other areas.
This morning coalition forces near the Mukhaiyam mosque were attacked with two rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Multinational Division Central South reports that Muqtada militia has occupied the second floor of the al-Imam al-Hussein shrine in downtown Karbala and is directing sniper fire from the western wall of the shrine on to coalition forces at the al-Mukhaiyam mosque.
Muqtada's militia is also firing on them from the streets and buildings of the Iranian quarter across from the al-Mukhaiyam. Phone calls from private citizens to the CPA elements in Karbala are also overwhelmingly supportive of continuing to fight Muqtada militia.
People from the Iranian quarter neighborhood are phoning to complain that coalition forces are not attacking Muqtada militia who have moved into their neighborhood. They say there are no religious sites in their neighborhood and they want Muqtada's militias out of their home.
In an Najaf there have been three attacks this morning on Iraqi police stations. The enemy used a combination of mortars, rocket- propelled grenades and small-arms fire during each of these attacks. Coalition forces assessed these attacks as harassment and hit-and-run as the enemy has immediately broken contact and efforts to regain contact have not been successful. A coalition quick-reaction force was dispatched to assist in defending the police stations. One enemy was killed from these attacks and coalition forces continue to assist in the defense of these police stations in an Najaf.
In the southeastern zone of operations, enemy forces continued to engage coalition forces in Nasiriyah. From 21:00 until 01:00 last night, the CPA building was attacked on three separate occasions. Camp Libeccio, the coalition and Iraqi police liaison building in the center of town, was attacked on four occasions and these attacks led to a withdrawal from the building to a more protected site. One coalition soldier was killed and seven were wounded from these attacks. A coalition fixed-wing aircraft engaged five targets this morning. The targets were five vehicles that had been observed loading and unloading ordnance. And we estimate 20 enemy forces were killed during these strikes. Within Nasiriyah, coalition forces are continuing to patrol the city.
MR. SENOR: And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.
Q I have a few questions for General Kimmitt. First, we've heard reports that there were other IGC members in that convoy with Mr. Salim further back. Could you confirm that or --
GEN. KIMMITT: I have no reports that there were other IGC members of that convoy.
Q Okay. Then moving on, has the FBI been called in to do forensics at this point?
GEN. KIMMITT: We had some personnel onsite doing forensics. The Iraqi police service has the lead. As and when they need additional assistance outside of their own capabilities, they will make those specific requests to us.
Q Okay. And the last -- sorry -- the last question is, some IGC members have expressed that they are blaming the coalition for not providing enough protection for them and, obviously, for Mr. Salim, and that was the result of why he was targeted today -- was a successful target. What could you guys respond to that?
MR. SENOR: Well, first of all, I'd say it's a very difficult time for everybody, and we understand that there are a lot of high emotions.
As for security that we provide, since the Governing Council has been formed, the coalition provides financial assistance for security, we provide body armor, weapons for personal security details, vehicles, in some cases armored vehicles. We offer close protection service training -- six-week courses back to back. That's approximately 200 individual personal security members of various GC members have gone through the courses. We offer a refresher course for these PSDs. Approximately 40 personal security service members from various GCs -- for various Governing Council personal security details have gone through the program.
Mr. Salim's security detail consists primarily of family members, which is the case with a number of the GC security details. He's chosen to rely on cousins and nephews, which was his choice. And unfortunately, our records show that none of his personal security detail members ever participated in any of our training programs. Again, his choice. We make the resources available, we make the training available, but it's up to the individual GC members and the security details if they want to participate in it.
Clearly, their security is a very high priority for us, and that's why we provide the funding, that's why we provide the body armor, that's why we provide the weapons, and that's why we provide this training.
Go ahead, Sewell.
Q Sewell Chan from The Washington Post. A question for General Kimmitt. Sir, the Army right now is facing a continued insurgency in much of southern Iraq; obviously a lot of activity in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and also this attempt at a takeover, the city of Nasiriyah. And now we're hearing that soldiers who are stationed in South Korea might be called into Iraq. Is the Army stretched thin? Are there enough resources here to deal with this continuing insurgency as we lead up to June 30th? Could you comment on that issue?
GEN. KIMMITT: Let me take the second point, then the third point, then the first point.
Number one, these fights that we are having against Mugtada militia are not stretching us thin at all. They are pretty much street thugs with weapons. They don't present much of a military threat. They're a nuisance. They're a harassment. And sadly, as you can imagine with street thugs with weapons, sometimes they kill and wound our soldiers. But in engagement after engagement, they have not been able to stand and fight. They're incapable of acting and responding as a disciplined force.
And it's sad that they have taken to hiding within the holy sites for the Shi'a religion as their only capability to defend themselves because they know that we have one of two choices, which is to either attack them and risk provoking an outcome which would have strategic implications, or we can be a little more precise, reposition if necessary. And of course, we've taken the latter.
I don't know that we are repositioning any forces from South Korea to Iraq. I've seen those reports. I haven't heard it from DOD. Certainly we're looking at all our force stationing throughout the world, but I think that the decisions being made with regards to Korea are not being made because of the tactical situation on the ground here in Iraq. That was a long-standing discussion that we've had with the Republic of South Korea. That country is more than capable of providing for its own defense. And Secretary Rumsfeld has said numerous times that we've got to look at a relevant force posture and relevant force positioning throughout the world. But to suggest that the decisions driving our withdrawal from Korea is a more pressing need in Iraq is a stretch that I'm not willing to make and I don't think anybody else in DOD will make as well.
To answer your final question, is the Army stretched thin, go back and ask DOD. I think, again, Secretary Rumsfeld as recently as his visit out here the other day talked about trying to find more capacity within the existing force. But these are the types of decisions that are being made in Washington, D.C. I don't think that those decisions are being driven by Iraq, but I think it's a recognition of the entire global war on terrorism and the capability for the military to be able to respond to that. Thus far we've been able to respond to it quite well.
Will it have a long-term effect on the Army if we continue this type of OPTEMPO for a period of years? Personally, I can tell you, it probably will. But I'm not an expert on force structure.
The Army is certainly back there now, taking significant strides to revamp the force structure from 33 to 45 brigades. But we're too busy fighting a war down here to be worried about those kind of things. We remain absolutely confident that the Army is back there, in the States, thinking about the best way to man, train and equip the force that we're going to need to be able to continue a long-term operation, not only here in Iraq, but whatever threat that comes up.
MR. SENOR: Mark?
Q Thank you. Mark Stone, ABC. I have two questions. One, regarding Nasiriyah, as I understand it, the Italians evacuated one of its camps last night in central Nasiriyah after it came under attack. What does this say, General, for the success -- resistance being achieved by the Muqtada militia?
And secondly, regarding today's events, as I understand it -- and I may be mistaken -- the IGC members, when they come into the Green Zone, have to wait with their vehicles in line, as happened today, while they get checked, whereas the Humvees and the military vehicles can roll straight in. Isn't that a problem that should be addressed?
GEN. KIMMITT: Well, let's talk about the first one, down in Nasiriyah. They did not abandon the camp. What they did -- they just moved to a more secure camp. It was not necessarily an issue of -- this -- Camp Libeccio was just simply a building that had been used for the IGC, so on and so forth. The commander on the ground made the proper force protection determination; realized that, look, this place isn't that important. Let's just move our people over to the other base. We can have more people there, more force protection.
Q If I could just follow up, it must have been slightly -- it must have been somewhat important if it was in the center of Nasiriyah. And as I understand it, the Italian troops are now on the outside of Nasiriyah.
GEN. KIMMITT: The commander on the ground has taken a long-term view towards this in figuring out the best way not only for the immediate force protection but, as we've seen in many towns -- for example, in al Kut, where we withdrew from one building for a period of time, and then, when the time came, we went back and took it. I -- your characterization that somehow we are abandoning Nasiriyah just patently is not correct. That was a simple, prudent measure taken by a commander on the ground for a period of time, and as and when the situation merits, he'll go back into those buildings.
Now on the second issue, we have not yet firmly determined whether the IGC president was coming or going. I know that there were suggestions that he was in the entry lane into the Green Zone, and that's exactly where the explosion went off. But I went to that site at about 10:55 this morning, and the people that I talked to, to include some of the people that were wounded, were not certain that that vehicle that was -- that had the rotating president in it -- the current president in it was in the inbound lane. It could well have been in the outbound lane. Unclear at this point, and we're just going to wait for the investigation to determine that.
Q Could you address the actual issue of IGC members, who have told me themselves, having to queue up to get into the Green Zone, whereas military vehicles are rolling straight in?
GEN. KIMMITT: We all have to queue up to get inside the Green Zone. Now, it is true that we take different entrances with some of the military vehicles, but you know, again, all of us take responsible force protection throughout this city. One could make the argument that the military vehicles are at more risk, and as a result you need to get them inside the Green Zone quicker. And there have been numerous complaints on the part of the Iraqi citizens that the constant presence of military vehicles presents somewhat of a distraction and an obstacle inside the town. So I think all of us would agree that the quicker we get the military vehicles not blocking the roads, not blocking the entrances, the more -- the quicker we can get back to normal traffic around here.
MR. SENOR: Mark, I would just add a broader point here, which I think you're nipping at. The security considerations that we provide -- that we give to the Iraqi Governing Council members are second to none. Their security is highly important to us. That is why we repeatedly offer them financial assistance, body armor as I said, vehicles, weapons, repeated training programs. We are constantly evaluating their security, looking at ways to improve it, as we are with our own force protection. In fact, we are in the process of establishing a professional protective service for the Iraqi government, which will be modeled at least in concept after the United States Secret Service, similar force protection services for governmental bodies and officials throughout the world.
So this is something we are -- we consider a high priority. We've dedicated the resources to treat it as such, and we continue to look at ways to improve upon it. But it is something that we always take very seriously and have since the Governing Council was formed.
Q Thanks, Dan.
Charlie Mayer from NPR. Do you have any idea at this point on who might have done this?
GEN. KIMMITT: It would have been our first impression that this was classic Zarqawi network. I understand about 10 minutes before I came in here that another group has popped up and is now, on the Internet, taking responsibility for this. We don't know if that's a cover for Zarqawi network or if it's an actual organization. But the fact remains this is the classic hallmarks of what we've seen on Zarqawi attacks: suicidal bomb, spectacular effect -- tried to go after a large number of civilians -- and also tried to go after a symbol, in this case two symbols; obviously -- clearly a high government official for the Governing Council as well as near a coalition checkpoint. So all of those indicators -- suicidal, spectacular, symbolic -- line up here. But we have this new group that has come in, and we don't know who this group is. We'll have to do some analysis on it.
Q Could I just follow up there? Mr. Chalabi was talking afterwards that this clearly comes out of Fallujah; that that's where Ba'athists are regrouping and packing vehicles with bombs, to paraphrase what he said. Do you have any feelings on that?
GEN. KIMMITT: No, but we would appreciate his intelligence because if that in fact is the case, we would be more than willing to take that intelligence and use it in operations to go kill and capture those who would do it.
MR. SENOR: Did he cite where this information was coming from?
MR. SENOR: Najim?
Q (Through interpreter.) There are some reports mentioning that there have been so many casualties and there have been two soldiers were killed when Mr. Izzedine Salim was killed. You have mentioned that there has been a mortar mentioned, and you said that it has been designed in a way that they were used as a projectile, as an IED in a very limited way. Can you tell us what were the components or these mortars or these agents that you just mentioned in your speech?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first issue, Najim, we did not have any coalition soldiers killed this morning as part of the explosion near the checkpoint that took the life of the president.
The projectile I was talking about was an artillery projectile, what we call a binary chemical projectile, which is a type of projectile where you have two relatively passive chemicals loaded in the same shell; when you fire it through an artillery round, the rotation of the artillery in flight causes the barriers between the two chambers inside the shell to break, causes them to mix; then as a result you have, when it lands and explodes, the release of a nerve agent, in this case sarin.
Q (Through interpreter.) These IEDs, was it one of the weapons that have been stocked from the ex-regime time?
GEN. KIMMITT: It was a weapon that we believe was stocked from the ex-regime time, and it had been thought to be an ordinary artillery shell set up to explode like an ordinary IED. And basically from the detection of that and when it exploded, it indicated that it actually had some sarin in it.
MR. SENOR: Yes, in the back?
Q General Kimmitt, if I can just shift tracks to Abu Ghraib real quick, I wanted to know if you can tell us, the pictures that we've seen both in the "60 Minutes" report and those that have been released by one of the defendant's attorney, can you give us a time frame of when those pictures may have been taken?
And one more question. Some of the interrogation methods that we've seen come out of Abu Ghraib, including the hooding and wiring or sexual intimidation, is this a policy that was used in interrogation post-9/11 or was this something that had been used prior to 9/11?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the first case, we think the pictures that were shown on "60 Minutes" were taken somewhere in the December/January time period -- November/December/January time period.
On your second question, there were pictures that we saw that were never approved in any interrogation manual -- standing somebody up, putting a hood over their head, putting electrodes on their body, telling them -- that's not interrogation, those are not interrogation techniques. That's abuse and harassment. That's why when those pictures came out, the investigation was started. That's why criminal charges were levied against these soldiers. That's why the first of those soldiers will be in this building on the 19th of this month to face those court-martial charges.
MR. SENOR: Alissa?
Q I just wanted to go back a little bit to Izzedine Salim and try to clarify a couple of things. Do you think, based on what you know, that his vehicle or him -- that he was a target, based on what you know? What I've been hearing is that the vehicle used by the president rotated; it was a heavily armored vehicle, as you were saying, and rotated among the presidents as they changed, so it's possible that someone might not know it was him, but might know it was a president. And can you tell us anything that you know at this point about the bomb that was used?
MR. SENOR: On your first question, Alissa, there are security assets that are dedicated specifically to the presidency that do rotate. I don't want to specify which ones, for obvious operational security matters that I don't want to reveal. But there are assets that rotate.
It's too early in this investigation to tell, based on that information -- or based on any information, whether or not he was targeted specifically or whether or not the presidency was targeted, regardless of who the person in the presidency was today.
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, the only thing we know at this point is we have pictures of what would appear to be the top portions of artillery rounds, the area where you stick the fuse in, that still had the nose cap in it. So we've got to let the forensics people work this out. But at this point, the initial evidence would indicate that there were some artillery rounds in the vehicle, daisy-chained and detonated which caused the explosion that we saw today.
Q Just to follow up, was there any prior threat that you know of recently? I mean, obviously there's an ongoing threat to all GC members. Was there anything specific that --
GEN. KIMMITT: We don't talk about specified threats. We don't talk about actual threats. We just keep that in the intelligence community and pass it, on a classified basis, on a need- to-know basis, to those who need to know.
MR. SENOR: I'll add, though, that when there is a specified threat --
GEN. KIMMITT: (Absolutely ?).
MR. SENOR: -- we do ramp up the security assets, personnel and other resources to that particular personal security detail that's guarding the individual, in the event that there is a threat. That's been a matter of routine.
Q (Through interpreter.) Abu Naji (sp) from Akar (sp). After -- (inaudible) -- has been many -- (inaudible). Will the date of the court martial be changed in this area?
GEN. KIMMITT: We see no additional threat that would cause us to either change the date or the location of the court martial.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q (Through interpreter.) Baram Hamid Ali (sp) from al- Mashada (sp). General Kimmitt, can you explain to us where did you find the artillery round which contains the sarin nerve gas? And how much is the area affected by this bomb?
GEN. KIMMITT: Yeah, it was found in Baghdad. The area that was affected was very minor.
Because the binary chemicals were not allowed to mix, there were very, very small traces, and the EOD people that went up showed some minor indications of nerve poisoning. However, it was so minor that the doctors already have these people released. So it is not a continuing threat, and the area needs no special marking-off, nor does it -- nor did it need additional decontamination.
MR. SENOR: Dexter?
Q Just along the same -- on the same lines, on the sarin, you said before it was partially detonated. I wonder what exactly does that mean. And is there -- when a binary weapon goes off, is it -- is the effect of it different if it's fired an artillery shell, or if it sort of exploded an IED? And I'm just wondering if -- I mean, does this change your conclusions about -- I mean, does the discovery of sarin change your conclusions about whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?
GEN. KIMMITT: On the last question, I'll leave that up to the Iraqi Survey Group to determine.
This was rigged as an IED. If it was a normal artillery round, it would have been very effective. It would have had the same effect as we saw today against the current president of the IGC, because those were artillery rounds daisy-chained together, and you saw the effect that that would have.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. KIMMITT: No. Completely separate. It would have exploded. It would have exploded -- if it was a normal artillery round being used as an IED, you would have the kind of effect that you would see down near the Green Zone today. But because it was a chemical round, you don't have explosives inside the projectile; you have chemicals.
What makes binary weapons relatively safe for handling on a day- to-day basis is because they're in separate chambers, they can be handled without significant risk towards the persons handling them. That was one of the reasons you went with binary chemicals, because you have two fairly passive chemicals not mixed. But it takes the launching of the artillery round itself before the chambers break, causing them to mix, so that it becomes dangerous on the far end. That doesn't happen when you have an IED. When you have an IED, or you rig it as an IED, it just blows up and you have the chemicals spewing out -- minor amounts going in different directions.
Q So it's less effective, then. I mean --
GEN. KIMMITT: It's ineffective.
Q It's ineffective --
GEN. KIMMITT: Virtually ineffective as a chemical weapon with the exception of the small trace that was found as they went up and detected it.
Q And it just -- the when and where, if you could be more precise.
GEN. KIMMITT: No. Again, in Baghdad a couple days ago.
MR. SENOR: Yeah?
Q General Kimmitt, just a follow-up. Am I reading you right that whoever rigged this chemical round as an IED appears to not have known that it was a chemical round?
GEN. KIMMITT: Right. Exactly.
Q Okay. Now, if one were to know that they had a chemical round and rigged it as an IED, is there a way to make it effective the way we know sarin can be effective?
GEN. KIMMITT: No, not really. You would have to put it in an artillery cannon, get the projectile, get the propellent, sort of go through the old mechanism of having an artillery round to do it.
Q Is there a way to remove the nerve agent from the round, and if so, what is the quantity?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, you're going well beyond my expertise on this and -- so I don't know.
MR. SENOR: Yes?
Q Evan Osnos, Chicago Tribune. If this is the first evidence or sign of a chemical munition in Baghdad, is there something -- a more broader guidance or advisory that you were planning to put out to the Iraqi people that perhaps there may be chemical munitions now floating around?
And also, does this change your posture in terms of looking for those sorts of weapons from an investigative posture, going back and looking at what Saddam may have been doing, to, in fact, a public security posture?
GEN. KIMMITT: Again, these are -- inside the round it's very hard. You can't sort of break this thing open and take these items and mix them together. You can take common household chemicals, mix them together and have somewhat the same effect. But to suggest that you've got two different chemicals laying about and putting them together makes sarin -- inside that artillery round they're probably safer than common household chemicals because of the integrity of that round, but these kind of questions I would defer to the Iraqi Survey Group to give you a full explanation on them.
MR. SENOR: Yes, ma'am.
Q (Through interpreter.) Dinam Hamid (ph) from Al-Hurriyah Television. When will the security file will be transferred to the Iraqis? Especially there are some requests from the Iraqis to speed up the transfer of the security files to the Iraqis?
GEN. KIMMITT: We will transfer the security file to the government of Iraq at that time when the Iraqi security forces themselves feel capable of standing on their own to provide both the internal and external security for this country. We would love to speed it up. We are training as fast as we can. We are equipping as fast as we can. We are fielding these organizations as fast as they can. We don't -- we are not holding back on the security file. Quite the contrary: we are accelerating the process, bringing in one of the finest generals we have in the U.S. Army to conduct the process. And I think that we will see, particularly in light of what has happened over the past couple of months with the Iraqi security forces, a tremendous improvement in the equipping, fielding and manning of these organizations.
MR. SENOR: I would just add that I know of no Iraqi leader who has taken a serious look at the security situation on the ground here, however, and made the conclusion that there won't be a significant terror threat in Iraq following June 30th. I mean, there just seems to be broad consensus that there will be a real security and terrorist threat here after June 30th. And those leaders who have taken a serious look at the issue have made it clear to us that it is their hope that American security forces continue to play a role here after June 30th in support of the Iraqi security forces that are being trained and equipped, as General Kimmitt has said; play a supportive role and serve in a partnership, if you will, with the Iraqi security services.
Q (Through interpreter.) Adel Nasser Jamid (ph) from Al- Hurriyah. My question is to Mr. Dan, the same question regarding the security file. Why haven't the coalition forces approved at the beginning to transfer or pass the security file to the Iraqis or participate with the parties or -- with the Iraqi parties to take part in handling the security situation because the Iraqis are more capable and more aware of how their environment is looking like? So that that's why we do want -- we had asked for transferring the security files to the Iraqis through the Iraqis.
MR. SENOR: If you're talking about empowering the political parties to handle the security file, one thing that we have tried to do since we arrived is to prevent "warlordism" that tends to tear countries apart when individual political parties and their respective militias are empowered to handle security rather than unified security services that work on behalf of the entire nation. And so Ambassador Bremer, shortly after his arrival, made it clear that Iraqis who want to serve in a security personnel position in Iraq are encouraged to do so -- we welcome, we've been recruiting quite ambitiously -- must do so on behalf of the nation of Iraq, not on behalf of any individual political party or former militia or disbanded militia. And as I said, we've recruited some 200,000 who have taken that on.
But we do not think it's in anybody's interest to promote individual political entities taking on their own partisan roles to enhance security. In fact, the Governing Council agrees. Every member of the Governing Council is supportive of and has representatives that are signatories to the Transitional Administrative Law; the interim constitution, which calls, effectively, for the disbanding of militias because it says any security force that's outside the zone, outside the domain of the national government will be barred in the new Iraq.
So there really seems to be consensus on this. The coalition feels strongly about this. Iraqi leaders feel strongly about this. It's the way to go forward and build a unified country, in part by defending that country with a unified security force.
Q General, I am Muller Veela (ph) from Der Spiegel in Germany. General, I would like to switch back to the prison abuse subject. There are allegations that some of the former top guys of the former regime under interrogation and detention have been humiliated. Have you heard about that?
GEN. KIMMITT: We have no indications, all our investigations at this point have indicated that there was no abuse, no harassment conducted with the high-value detainees.
Q No abuse in the cases of Ramadan or Tariq Aziz?
GEN. KIMMITT: We are not aware -- again, we also have an overall investigation going on to the military intelligence and interrogation techniques. That is an ongoing investigation. As many know, it is the Major General Fay investigation. I don't want to prejudge the outcome of that investigation. It may well be that information comes forward. If information does come forward, of which we are not currently aware, but if that information does come forward, those persons who have acted outside our mandate to treat all prisoners with dignity and respect in accordance with the Geneva Convention will be investigated. If their activity has been criminal, they will be indicted and they will stand before a court of justice.
MR. SENOR: Yes? Sir. Go ahead.
Q Tom Perry (sp), Reuters News Agency. Are you aware of any kind of explosions on the airport road today? We had something about a suicide bomb there.
GEN. KIMMITT: At 0955, as we said, there was an explosion by Checkpoint 12. That is right astride the airport road. Our initial indications was that it was on the airport road, but as the reports came in, it turned out it was below the airport road right at the checkpoint.
Q Is this the first sarin shell that you've found?
GEN. KIMMITT: It's my understanding that this is the first sarin shell that we've found, yeah.
MR. SENOR: Yes, sir?
Q (Through interpreter.) Mr. Kimmitt, Dr. Sabiah Jabil al- Khabi (ph) from al-Wasat (ph) and al-Hayat Iraqi newspaper. My question is that there are nowadays more than 3,000 humanitarian organizations in Iraq. Why you're not trying to shed light on these organizations so that you can know what is the nature of these organizations and what are the foreign forces or the foreign organizations that are supporting these organizations? They might just form a threat. Why not trying to investigate regarding the nature of these organizations?
MR. SENOR: We have a number of NGOs that are working in Iraq with the coalition. USAID, for instance, has multiple relationships with various humanitarian organizations and NGOs. As to any that may be posing a terror threat inside Iraq, obviously we'd rely on coalition and Iraqi intelligence services and resources to make that determination. And, obviously, any foreign fighters that come into the country, we try to monitor quite closely. You've heard us from this podium talk quite consistently that foreign fighters pose a significant threat inside Iraq. It is something we're deeply concerned about. We have sent very strong messages to governments whose countries border Iraq -- like the Iranian government, like the Syrian government -- about foreign fighters coming in from their countries. So we take the threat from foreign fighters quite seriously, and if you have any information, of course, that we don't, we would certainly welcome it.
GEN. KIMMITT: And it was certainly our experience in the Balkans that there were a number of humanitarian organizations that had deep- rooted connections to these types of organizations. We are certainly not denying for a moment that there may not be humanitarian -- organizations under the guise of humanitarian assistance that might have other purposes for being in Iraq. So I can tell you that there is a history of that happening, and we are not blind to that history.
MR. SENOR: Last question, yeah.
Q Do you know anything about reports of two Russians kidnapped last week have been freed today?
MR. SENOR: I saw the reports. We have no information on it at this point. When we do, and we are comfortable giving you that information based on operational security matters, we will do so immediately.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2004, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1919 M STREET, N.W., SUITE 220, WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED. UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION. FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES. FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL JACK GRAEME AT 202-347-1400.