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Iraq: U.S. To Beef Up Presence In Baghdad

Washington, 14 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says between 15,000 to 20,000 additional American troops have been ordered to be stationed in Iraq, in part to provide greater security in Baghdad and elsewhere. Rumsfeld told a U.S. congressional panel that coalition forces have a strategic plan to prevent looters and other criminal activities from disrupting security in Baghdad.

He said looters and other violent criminals caught in the act will be captured or killed.

He denied that the Iraqi capital has fallen into anarchy since the invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Currently there are about 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq -- some 49,000 in Baghdad.

Major General Buford Blount, a leading U.S. military commander in Baghdad, said soldiers have the right to take action against looters.

"We have the right to defend ourselves, we have the right to arrest the looters. And if the looter puts up resistance or has a weapon and points it at the soldier, then it's up to the soldier to make that judgment whether he feels threatened or not."

In another development, U.S. Marines have secured a mass grave south of Baghdad as Iraqis searched for remains of missing relatives and friends.

A doctor leading the excavation efforts, Rafed Husseini, said more than 3,000 bodies have been recovered. Thousands more are believed still buried.