Saturday, November 27, 2004

Yahoo! News - U.S. Sends in Secret Weapon: Saddam's Old Commandos

Yahoo! News - U.S. Sends in Secret Weapon: Saddam's Old Commandos: "NEAR ISKANDARIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Twenty months after toppling Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), U.S. troops still battling his followers in the heartland of Iraq's old arms industry are hitting back with a new weapon -- ex-members of Saddam's special forces.

For five months, Iraqi police commandos calling themselves the Black Scorpions have been based with U.S. Marines in the region along the Euphrates south of Baghdad, which roadside bombs, ambushes and kidnaps have turned into a no-go areas and earned it the melodramatic description 'triangle of death.'

'All of them were previously officers in the Iraqi army or special forces,' the Scorpions' commander, Colonel Salaam Trad, said at the Marines' Kalsu base near Iskandariya on Saturday.

'But Saddam was dirty and no good for Iraq.'

The performance of this SWAT team, as the Americans call it, could be a critical test of how U.S. forces can hand over to Iraqis to meet their goal of withdrawing from a stable Iraq. U. S. officers in the area say they are increasingly optimistic.

'The hardest fighters we have are the former special forces from Saddam's days,' Colonel Ron Johnson, commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, told reporters. "

By Alastair Macdonald

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