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U.S. steps up WMD hunt in Iraq

U.S.: Another Saddam half-brother captured

Baghdad
U.S. troops take cover Thursday as shots are heard from a park near the al-Rasheed hotel in Baghdad.

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SPECIAL REPORT
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is sending a 1,000-man team to Iraq to hunt for weapons of mass destruction, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The group, probably to be led by a general, will consist of military personnel, government intelligence analysts, civilian scientists and private contractors.

Initial elements of the "Iraq Survey Group" are already in Iraq and the full organization should be operational within a couple of weeks, a defense official said.

The survey team will focus on putting a larger number of people into the country to undertake a more organized search based on intelligence leads.

The latest effort underscores the growing Pentagon view that the United States no longer expects to find weapons of mass destruction on its own, but will have to offer rewards to Iraqis to elicit information as to where to look.

"I think what will happen is, we'll discover people who will tell us where to go find it," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said during a town hall meeting at the Pentagon. "It is not like a treasure hunt, where you just run around looking everywhere hoping you find something.

"The inspectors didn't find anything, and I doubt that we will. What we will do is find the people who will tell us."

Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed that sentiment.

"There are thousands of sites that will have to be looked at, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people who have knowledge who will have to be interviewed," Powell said in an interview with PBS's "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

Meanwhile, U.S. special operations troops, supported by Marines, captured one of Saddam's half-brothers in an overnight raid in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks of the U.S. Central Command said Thursday.

Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti is No. 52 on the U.S. list of the most-wanted figures from the former regime and the five of clubs on the Central Command's deck of cards of most-wanted Iraqis issued to troops.

"We believe that he is an insider" to Saddam's regime, having served as an adviser to the former Iraqi president, Brooks said.

Information provided by Iraqis facilitated the capture, Brooks said. Hasan was captured alone and there were no casualties, he said.

Last weekend, Watban Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, another Saddam half-brother, was taken into U.S. custody trying to cross into Syria. Syria said it has sealed its border with Iraq.

Coalition forces worked with local leaders Thursday to try to maintain order and restore services around Iraq, while diplomats debated the future of the region.

The United States was moving hundreds of troops to an air base on the outskirts of the northern city of Mosul, where tensions have been high following clashes this week between Marines and residents that killed at least 10 people, U.S. military officials told a CNN reporter on the scene.

U.S. forces plan to increase patrols in the western sector of the city, but they have not yet begun, officials said.

Kurdish troops originally occupied the area following the surrender of Iraqi forces a week ago, but the Kurds pulled out due to tension with the Arab population. The remaining 500 to 600 Kurdish troops are in the eastern part, where about 30 percent of Mosul's population lives.

In Baghdad, Mohammad Al Zubiedi, an Iraqi opposition figure who until recently lived in exile in Britain, told CNN that voters have elected him chief of Baghdad's executive council.

About 300 community leaders elected Zubiedi as part of a meeting to set up a civil administration in the city, according to Zubiedi and others in his circle.

Historically, however, Iraqis have been hostile to the idea of being led by exiles who have avoided many of the hardships under Saddam and U.N. sanctions. (Full story)

U.S. military officials said they were familiar with Zubiedi, but the agency in charge of helping establish an interim government in Iraq said it had not been in contact with him.

Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the once-exiled Iraqi National Congress, was in Baghdad Thursday to meet with family, members of the Iraqi National Congress, residents, military officials, university professors and community leaders, according to a spokesman.

Meanwhile, European Union leaders said Thursday they were committed to playing a "significant role" in Iraq's reconstruction.

At a meeting in Athens, Greece, the European Union called on the U.S.-led coalition to provide a "secure environment" in the aftermath of the conflict that removed Saddam's regime in less than a month's time.

In a statement, the group said the United Nations should play a central role in the process of leading Iraqis toward self-government and called on Iraq's neighbors to support security and stability in the country.

Other developments

• The United States awarded California-based Bechtel Corp., one of the world's largest engineering, construction and development companies, a multimillion dollar contract for reconstruction in Iraq, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Thursday. The contract provides $34.6 million for initial construction and allows for funding of up to $680 million over 18 months. The funding is "subject to congressional authority and availability," according to a USAID statement. Riley P. Bechtel, the company's chairman and CEO, was appointed in February to the President's Export Council -- President Bush's premier advisory committee on international trade. (Full story)

U.S. troops have captured Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, one of Saddam Hussein's half-brothers, Central Command says.
U.S. troops have captured Barzan Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, one of Saddam Hussein's half-brothers, Central Command says.

• At Iraq's central public health laboratory, vials, syringes and papers were strewn across the courtyard, the work of looters who did not yield to the urgent hand-scrawled messages on the lab's front gate warning of "pollution," "biohazard" and "danger." While most of the vials and samples were dumped on the ground outside, researchers were worried some looters left with potentially dangerous material that was in refrigerators and other equipment stolen from the site last week after the fall of Saddam's regime.

• The Czech Republic is sending humanitarian aid workers and equipment to Iraq including a field hospital with 281 staffers and a water treatment facility that can produce up to 26,000 gallons of drinkable water per hour. The Czech Parliament also has authorized about 400 Czech weapons experts -- who had been stationed in Kuwait -- to operate in Iraq.

• U.S. Marines recently raided the Baghdad home of Iraq's former biological weapons director Dr. Rihab Taha also known as "Dr. Germ." CNN has obtained copies of field notes detailing her tests conducted before the first Gulf War that successfully spread deadly agents, including botulinum toxin and an anthrax stimulant. The notes are part of documents obtained by the United Nations in 1995. The tests were conducted in 1989 and 1990.

• U.S. military officials and Iraqi engineers were working to restore power to Baghdad. Marine Maj. Don Broton told CNN it has taken three or four days to reassemble the main staff of Iraq's electrical authority. Officials have managed to restart two substations in southern Baghdad as well as six diesel plants. Broton said the military was considering using power from the northern city of Kirkuk to jump-start the remaining plants in Baghdad. (Full story)

• About 30 Iraqi and world experts met Thursday at the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's headquarters in Paris, France, to evaluate the extent of looting in Iraqi museums and how to preserve Iraq's cultural heritage. The U.S. Central Command acknowledged a "void in security," saying the U.S. military failed to anticipate "the riches of Iraq would be looted by the Iraqi people." (Full story)

CNN correspondents Ben Wedeman, Christiane Amanpour, Jim Clancy, Michael Holmes, Tom Mintier, Nic Robertson and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN's policy is to not report information that puts operational security at risk.


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