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Martin Savidge: Public might not trust ex-police

CNN correspondent Martin Savidge
CNN correspondent Martin Savidge

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
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(CNN) -- The chaos in Baghdad continued Saturday, but some stores re-opened and a man came forward claiming to be deposed leader Saddam Hussein's former plastic surgeon.

CNN Corespondent Martin Savidge is in Baghdad and discussed the latest news with anchor Carol Costello.

SAVIDGE: [The man claiming to the surgeon] has been whisked away and is being carefully grilled by the intelligence people of the U.S. Marines at this particular point, just in case he really has what he says he has, which is information about to where the Iraqi regime has fled.

The man was picked up this morning by Charlie Company, of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. They run a routine patrol in the city of Baghdad, and he approached them. He identified himself as the plastic surgeon to Saddam Hussein and his family.

He said that not only had he operated on Saddam Hussein -- he didn't say whether that was recently or not -- but the Marines also said he made this claim that he knew where the families have fled. Clearly one of the top priorities right now is to find out where the regime has gone and where they can be found right now.

Here in Baghdad this morning, black smoke continues to rise over the horizon. There are a number of big fires that are still burning here, and gunfire still snaps in the air. But despite that, there are small indications this capital is trying to return to normal.

There is still looting going on, but it is not as bad as it has been over the past couple of days. The U.S. Marines are beefing up patrols now, sending out Marine infantry -- that means on foot -- patrolling from neighborhood to neighborhood, hoping to quell the problems.

A lot of people, in small pockets, have been trying to quell it themselves. There has been talk of vigilante gangs in action. People are also setting up roadblocks -- make out of anything, whether it be bricks, trashed automobiles, debris they can find anywhere along the road -- trying to keep the looters from driving in.

Still, we found as we drove around today that storefronts have begun to open with the basics. Those goods would be food like meat, bread, milk, vegetables, water, whatever can be found. It's not a large supply. Long lines tend to take place when these storefronts open. But it is at least a hopeful sign that people are now feeling partially confident to come back to work.

Then there is the plea that has been going out, coming from the U.S. Marines, coming from the military to those in the civil service, to try to get the police officers to come back to help stem the tide of looting, to try to get those from the water department, the sanitation department, and with the electricity and utilities. They need to get back all of those people.

The problem was: How do they communicate with them? Eventually they found one of the best ways was using shortwave radio transmissions. They say people have begun approaching the U.S. military who say they want to go back to work. So there are small steps being taken to try to get Baghdad back to normal.

COSTELLO: We understand inside the Palestine Hotel that U.S. military officials have actually met with some retired Iraqi police officers, so they can possibly go on patrol along with coalition forces to keep order.

SAVIDGE: But I'll tell you one of the problems is that police officers in this country are seen in a number of ways. Many of the police officers under the old regime were Baath Party members, and they were sort of the enforcers, not necessarily the protectors, of the people.

And so now if you send some of these police officers back into the same neighborhoods where they used to enforce, the people who live there will wake up and say, "What has changed? The same bad man who was on the street before is back on the street again."

This possibility is what the military has to be cautious about. They want to make sure these people are truly there to keep the peace, and to not try to say, "The old ways are back."

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

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