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Since 1st March, 1999
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Looted Baghdad hospital faces closure threat

Baghdad, April 21 (Reuters): Baghdad Central Children’s Hospital has been raided by armed looters and will have to close unless US troops quickly provide protection, medical staff said today.

“Two days ago armed looters, some of them drunk, attacked the hospital, shooting at ambulances in the hospital car park and someone pointed a gun at the pharmacist,” paediatrician Wa’ad Idan said.

“After roaming hospital wards for nearly half-an-hour, terrifying patients and staff, they left after taking an air conditioner and a refrigerator,” said Idan, who came to Reuters’ Baghdad office with a number of colleagues to seek help.

Idan said local volunteers who used to guard the hospital, in the Mansour district of the city, had left, adding that he and his colleagues had sought help from US troops who promised to send armoured vehicles. But the patrols had not arrived. “After failing to get protection from US troops we sought the help of the residents of the area and the nearby mosque,” he said.

“If no one comes to our help we will be forced to leave the hospital tonight when night falls.”

American troops are already guarding several main Baghdad hospitals, including the Medical City, Yarmuk and al-Kindi, along with medical stores and some government buildings.

Idan’s colleague, Ahmed Saleh, said hospital staff had turned down a US offer last week to provide protection, fearing clashes with the fidayeen militia who were hiding out nearby. “At that time Arab fidayeen were hiding near the hospital and we feared some fidayeen would seek refuge there, prompting US troops to attack,” Saleh, a paediatrician surgeon, said.

“Now the fidayeen have left the area, and the volunteers who used to guard the hospital were pulled out too, and we are left alone to face raids by looters,” Saleh said. He said the looters had been after armour-plated cars which belonged to the members of Saddam’s intelligence services.

“There were 11 brand new armoured cars parked in the garage. Two days ago people working with Mohammed Mohsen al-Zubaidi (the self-styled new “governor” of the capital) came and took four of them. Now there are nine cars left,” Saleh said. “Let them (US troops) come and take the cars out of the hospital,” he added.

Saleh said the hospital had remained open throughout the war, treating war wounded as well as sick children. He said there were now around 100 patients there.

The Central Children’s Hospital, formerly the Saddam Children’s Hospital, was Iraq’s main centre for treating child leukaemia. Before the war, it had about 400 medical and support staff there, but numbers have now fallen below 100.

Ali out of danger

A 12-year-old boy who came to symbolise the human tragedy of the Iraqi war when he lost both arms and was orphaned in a US bombing, will receive state-of-the-art artificial limbs, a doctor treating him told the BBC today.

Ali Ismaeel Abbas was out of danger, said Ibrahim Ghaniem, interviewed in Kuwait where the victim is being treated.

“Ali is out of danger. We controlled the infection,” he told BBC 1 television.

“We are optimistic of providing him with a bio-electric hand for the right and a prosthetic for the left. We are in contact with the specialist centre for artificial limbs. We are looking for the most sophisticated in the field.”

Ali, who also received severe burns and lost both parents in the Baghdad attack, had threatened he would take his life if he could not have artificial limbs.

He was reported to be making a solid recovery from surgery in Kuwait while offers of help have been flooding in. The child’s arms were amputated above the elbow in Baghdad after he was the sole survivor among 20 others killed when their house was hit in an attack by the US-British coalition on March 30.

His suffering sparked a high-profile international campaign to save his life and won sympathy from around the globe.

His first in a series of operations was performed just hours after arriving in Kuwait, where he was diagnosed with burns to more than 20 per cent of his body.

Nearly 1,000 political prisoners lie buried in secret graves at a cemetery on the western outskirts of Baghdad, the cemetery’s manager said.

and a gravedigger told afp while displaying remains of the corpses.

”The baath regime has gone and now we can talk freely with you,” the manager, mohymeed aswad, told afp.

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