Fri, Dec 03, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Gang-fighting skills from Chicago being applied by US in Iraq

AFP , Mahmudiyah, Iraq

Young, disenfranchised and very angry men who go out and pick up weapons -- that's what Jim Roussell had to deal with as an anti-gang cop on Chicago's West Side, and that's how he sees the insurgents he's fighting here in Iraq's "triangle of death."

And the best way to combat both US inner city gang members and Iraqi rebels is by using snitches, or informants, said Chief Warrant Officer Roussell, an intelligence officer in the marines.

"It's dirty, murky work, but that's how you get the clearest picture," he said.

Roussell is based in Mahmudiyah, one of a handful of towns in an area just south of Baghdad that earned the "death triangle" moniker because of frequent kidnappings and deadly attacks on civilians and US and Iraqi security forces.

US commanders say their enemy here is a "marriage of convenience" between wealthy former Baathists and extremist religious leaders, criminal gangs and disillusioned men using weapons looted from munitions factories in last year's post-invasion chaos.

In combatting this last group Roussell, a 53-year-old reservist who came back to the marines for duty in Iraq, is utilizing the experience he gained during 28 years in an anti-gang unit in Chicago.

In the city's notorious West Side, the angry young men are mostly from ethnic minorities who feel excluded from mainstream society.

In Iraq they are from the Sunni Muslim minority which formed the ruling elite in Saddam Hussein's time but now fear they will be excluded after elections planned for January.

"The police work on the principle that good people don't know anything, only bad people do," said Roussell.

The "bad people" he talks to are Iraqi insurgents or suspected insurgents detained by his US marine colleagues. The reasons people give information are because they've been caught committing a crime, money, revenge or because they want to get out of the gang or rebel group they're in, said Roussell, who was working on airport security for the Chicago police before he shipped out to Iraq.

"For developing a source, money is good, revenge is better but the best ones are the ones who want to get out. Their lives are over."

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