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US troops find suicide vests, $600m in cash

As Sayliya Camp (Qatar), April 22 (Reuters): US-led forces have discovered lethal equipment linked to the rule of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, including 800 suicide bomb vests, a US general said today.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks also confirmed media reports that soldiers had unearthed a stash of more than $600 million in US $100 bills hidden in the storage room of a Baghdad home.

Many of the vests were ammunition jackets with explosives stuffed in the pockets or sewn into the lining, Brooks told a news briefing at US Central Command war headquarters in Qatar.

In some vests, metal ball bearings were added to make them even more lethal, Brooks said.

“We have found a number of these in several different locations. At this point over 800 have been found,” he said.

“We remain concerned about the potential for suicide attacks,” he added. “We know there’s someone that produces (vests), then distributes them and intended at least to use the ones we found.”

As US-led forces advanced on Baghdad, the government of Saddam Hussein said thousands of supporters had volunteered for suicide bombing attacks against the invaders.

Several US soldiers were injured or killed by car bombs while checking vehicles at security checkpoints.

Along with vests, Brooks said troops found “objects that normally would be used in a casual setting being converted in deadly devices”.

He showed reporters photographs of what appeared to be a marble coffee table with a hollow centre stuffed with explosives and rigged with a remote detonator.

“The finding of such devices reinforces the reality that terrorist tactics and actions were certainly supported by the (Saddam) regime,” Brooks said.

Members of the US army 3rd Infantry Division also stumbled on the $600 million during an action to stop the looting which swept parts of the Iraqi capital when Saddam was toppled.

The freshly-minted cash amounted to more than $600 million stashed in a building whose windows had been bricked up to provide a hiding place. News reports said the money may have belonged to members of Saddam’s Baath Party.

Brooks showed videos of the money, stacked high on wooden pallets, being placed in a C-130 cargo plane and flown off to a secure warehouse in an undisclosed location where law enforcement officials would examine all the items.

The US military in Iraq has agreed a ceasefire with the People’s Mujahideen, an armed group of Iranian dissidents which had been backed by Saddam Hussein, a senior commander said today.

“We’ve had some encounters of various sorts with the People’s Mujahideen. Some of our actions involve targeting them with lethal fire,” Brigadier General Vincent Brooks told a briefing at US Central Command war headquarters in Qatar.

“At this point a ceasefire is in effect and some Mujahideen have moved into assembly areas in non-combat formation.”

Armed with tanks and artillery, the group also known as the Mujahideen Khalq has sought to overthrow Iran’s Islamic government for two decades.

The US government, which has included the group on a list of “terrorist” organisations, estimated recently that it had several thousand fighters, most of whom were based in Iraq.

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