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CIA warned irregular Iraqi forces could pose threat

Militia's tactics 'no surprise'

From David Ensor

The Fedayeen Saddam militia group bypasses the military chain of command and reports directly to the presidential palace.
The Fedayeen Saddam militia group bypasses the military chain of command and reports directly to the presidential palace.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A classified CIA intelligence report widely distributed among Bush administration policy-makers and military leaders in February warned that irregular Iraqi forces could pose the greatest threat to U.S. and coalition forces, particularly to supply lines and rear units, U.S. officials say.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred Thursday to the irregular forces as "death squads" that terrorize Iraqi civilians.

The CIA report, dated February 3, said Baath party militia and the so-called "Fedayeen Saddam" could be expected to use "hit and run" tactics against rear units. The report also said such units might fire on Iraqi civilians in order to tie down U.S. and British forces, according to U.S. officials.

Other U.S. intelligence reports prior to the war also predicted, officials say, that Iraqi forces might fire on their own people in order to create scenes of civilian bloodshed suitable for propaganda use by the regime, which would blame the carnage on coalition forces.

U.S. officials revealed the existence of the February report in response to questions about whether the tactics that have led to most of the American and British deaths and POWs to date were a surprise to U.S. intelligence officials and policy-makers. An official said the CIA report was "widely distributed to policy-makers and warfighters."

"No surprise here," said a U.S. official.

The Fedayeen Saddam is a group of paramilitary fighters in Iraq established to provide security for Saddam Hussein, but also known for torturing and murdering opponents to his regime.

The Pentagon estimates its strength at between 5,000 and 20,000. Many of the members are from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit and are known for their fierce loyalty to the Iraqi president. The are well paid and are known to receive benefits denied other Iraqi military personnel.

The force, created in 1995 by Saddam's son Uday Hussein, are sometimes called the "black pajamas" because of the black clothing they wear.

Fake surrender

On March 23, 2003, a group of Fedayeen in southern Iraq pretended to surrender to a U.S. support personnel group only to shoot some of the soldiers and take others hostage.

Before the ground war began, Fedayeen were sent to intimidate regular Iraqi troops in southern Iraq from surrendering.

In a news briefing Thursday, Rumsfeld blamed intimidation by the Fedayeen for the lack of evidence of Iraqis coming out in support of the American forces.

Calling them "death squads" and "enforcers," Rumsfeld recounted the story of a recent incident in which they left someone in the center of Baghdad with his tongue cut out and left him to bleed to death.

He also said they were carrying out executions in Basra.

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