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Iraq

Hussein ordered looting of $1-billion


© St. Petersburg Times
published May 6, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - In the days before American bombs began falling on the Iraqi capital, one of Saddam Hussein's sons and a close adviser carried off nearly $1-billion in cash from the country's Central Bank, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials here.

The removal of the money, which would amount to one of the largest bank robberies in history, was performed under the direct orders of Hussein, the New York Times reported, quoting an unnamed Iraqi official with knowledge of the incident.

Qusay Hussein, the dictator's second son, presided over the seizure of the money, along with Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, the president's personal assistant, the newspaper reported, quoting the unnamed Iraqi official. The seizure occurred at 4 a.m. March 18, two days before the first American air assault.

The sheer volume of the cash was so great - some $900-million in U.S. $100 bills and as much as $100-million worth of euros - that three semitrailer trucks were needed to cart it off, the Iraqi official said. It took a team of workers two hours to load up the cash.

The disappearance of such a sizable amount of cash was giving rise to fears that it is being used to finance remnants of Hussein's government, many of whose senior members are believed to be hiding in Baghdad or its environs.

Accident kills soldier

WASHINGTON - A U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq on Saturday when his rifle accidentally discharged, the Pentagon said Monday. That raised the official U.S. death toll in the war to 140.

Sgt. Sean C. Reynolds, 25, of East Lansing, Mich., was climbing a ladder when he fell, causing his M4 rifle to accidentally discharge, the Pentagon said, providing no other details.

Antiquities in storage?

A top British Museum official said Monday that his Iraqi counterparts had told him they largely emptied display cases at the National Museum in Baghdad months before the start of war, storing many of the museum's most precious artifacts in repositories.

The British Museum official, John E. Curtis, curator of the Near East Collection who recently visited Iraq, said that Baghdad museum officials had taken the action on the orders of Iraqi government authorities. When looting started, most of the treasures apparently remaining in display halls were those too large or bulky to have been removed, he said.

Curtis said he believed American authorities now knew the locations of the artifact repositories but, as a precaution against further looting, were not disclosing them.

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