Iraq Giving Own Forces Western Uniforms in Ploy -US
By Charles Aldinger and Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) has ordered uniforms replicating those worn by U.S. and British troops and will issue them to paramilitary fighters who would attack Iraqi civilians and blame it on Western forces, the U.S. Central Command charged on Thursday.
A command spokesman said in a statement that U.S. intelligence had obtained the information, but refused to say how such intelligence was gathered or provide any details.
The accusation was another in a series of allegations that have been made by Washington in a war of words with Saddam as tension grows ahead of a possible U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (news - web sites) to rid that country of alleged chemical and biological weapons.
"Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has ordered the procurement of military uniforms identical down to the last detail to those of the United States and United Kingdom forces" now gathered in the Gulf, said James Wilkinson, a senior spokesman for Central Command.
"Saddam intends to issue these uniforms to 'Fedayeen Saddam' troops who would wear them when conducting reprisals against the Iraqi people so that they could pass the atrocities off as the work of the United States and the United Kingdom."
A "fact sheet" provided by Central Command, which is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, and has responsibility for any war in Iraq, said that Fedayeen Saddam, or "Men of Sacrifice," has a strength of more than 15,000 and was founded by Saddam's son, Uday, in 1994.
Many members of the organization are in their teens and recruited in areas noted for loyalty to Iraq's president, according to Central Command.
"Though not an elite force, the group does deal with unrest during an emergency," it added. "The force carries out patrols and anti-smuggling duties and is separate from the army command, reporting directly to the presidential palace."
The Pentagon (news - web sites) has also charged that Saddam is putting military targets near civilian sites and may be planning a "scorched earth" policy of setting fire to oil fields and destroying power plants and food stocks in any conflict, then blaming that on any attackers.
"This campaign of fear and misinformation would represent the latest chapter in Saddam Hussein's long history of brutal crimes against the innocent people of Iraq," Wilkinson said.