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Sunday, April 6

Special Forces, 101st troops arrest Baath Party leader

By Chantal Escoto | The Leaf-Chronicle

NAJAF, Iraq - Troops with the 101st Airborne Division worked with U.S. Special Forces on Sunday to take into custody one of President Saddam Hussein's top Baath Party intelligence officers, Gen. Othman Ali, authorities said.

The mid-morning search went smoothly, as Ali did not resist, officials say.

A local civilian showed up at one of the American army compounds and offered to show the American soldiers where Ali lived, said Lt. Col. Marcus DeOliveira, commander of the 1st Brigade's 1st Battalion. Special Forces was called in and 101st troops accompanied them as a backup.

``Instead of us trying to go in there, we figured it was better the Special Forces went in and got him,'' DeOliveira said. ``I don't know exactly what happened, because they negotiated his surrender. I didn't get involved other than (to) establish security.''

- It wasn't land mines but unexploded American artillery bomblets that injured five 101st soldiers Saturday night when they drove their Humvees over something that sent shrapnel into two of the cars.

Capt. Gary Pool, intelligence officer for the 1st Brigade's 1st Battalion, said the explosives were not land mines, but most likely ``dual-purpose improved conventional munitions.''

``Before we came here there was a lot of enemy, and some DPICM were used by 3rd Infantry Division,'' Pool said. ``Unfortunately, some didn't explode'' when they first hit the ground, ``and our guys ran over them. The civilians put them on the side of the road, but we're going to clean them up before someone else gets hurt. They were duds but still dangerous.''

DPICMs work a bit like cluster bombs - each artillery round that is shot contains scads of little grenades, or bomblets, that spray out before the shot hits the ground. The ``dual-purpose'' grenades can be used on both soldiers and objects, such as armored personnel carriers.

Compared to other types of artillery rounds, DPICMs have a ``significant'' dud rate of up to 2%-5%, depending on the type of terrain they're shot over, according to the nonprofit defense think tank GlobalSecurity.org. The duds ``can slow free movement'' of soldiers through an area where the rounds have been fired, the group says.

The five soldiers, who are in Company A of the 1st Brigade's 1st Battalion, were recovering from shrapnel wounds yesterday and are expected to return to work soon, officials said. The names of the injured were not released.

- First Battalion of the 1st Brigade yesterday found 310 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, 312 RPG rounds, one 60mm mortar launcher and 24 anti-personnel mines.

``It was about a truckload,'' DeOliveira said, adding that no chemical weapons have been found despite tips from some civilians.

Since March 30, about 660 mortar weapons, nearly 10,000 mortar rounds, 6,000 machine guns, 4,000 machine gun rounds, six anti-aircraft and artillery pieces, 13 vehicles, one tank and one radar system was seized by the battalion, Pool said.