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Iraq's 'FBI' on shoestring budget

The Criminal Identification Division in Basra has 53 pistols and 73 flak jackets for its 101 officers.

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With a sense of pride that his counterparts around the world would recognize, an Iraqi police officer shows off a discovery his men made that morning: one Russian-made rocket and more than a dozen mortar shells.

But one detail tempers the lieutenant's satisfaction: The still-lethal weaponry lies exposed on the station house floor. "I am sorry for this," remarks Lieutenant B., a seven-year police veteran, who like other members of Basra's Criminal Identification Division (CID) asked that his name not be used for security reasons. "But we have no place to put these things, no store room or vault."

While this is a city whose residents view the police with suspicion, Basrans do take some pride in the CID, the police forensics unit. "They do good work," says Saafir, a driver for a Western nongovernmental organization. "They are like America's FBI."

But unlike America's G-men, these crime specialists not only fight a low-level insurgency but a debilitating shortage of resources, training, and funding that would stymie even Sherlock Holmes. They're not alone: The lack of know-how and equipment at investigative units in Basra, Baghdad, Hilla, Kirkuk, and Mosul hamper the ability of Iraqi police to stem the bombings and street crime that plagues this country.

It is dangerous work: Roadside explosives in this southern Iraqi port city have killed five officers over the last two years, while one bomb-disposal expert died in the line of duty. Increasing the danger is the threat of assassination by terrorists targeting security forces.

These hazards have not deterred Basrans from flocking to recruiting stations, however. Unlike Baghdad, Basra is relatively free of suicide bombers who wreak havoc in the north. The province boasts 13,000 policemen, 7,000 of whom serve in Basra alone. And though most of these cops are new recruits, the men at Basra CID - who are paid $200 a month for their work - received their training and experience under the old regime.

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