Police officers stand next to a damaged police vehicle after roadside bomb attack in Kirkuk
Slahaldeen Rasheed  /  Reuters file
Iraqi police officers at the scene of a roadside bomb attack that targeted an Iraqi police patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk on July 19th. One policeman and one civilian were killed.
By Kerry Sanders Correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/26/2005 1:26:37 PM ET 2005-07-26T17:26:37

He dashes from bombing scene to bombing scene, and what he sees is barbaric.

Ali, who would not give his last name out of fear for his life, takes a camera with him everywhere he goes and documents the cruel aftermath of the nearly daily suicide bombings here.

But it’s what he’s been unable to shoot that has him boiling angry of late.

Profiteering from violence
At a bombing in al-Karada, a Baghdad neighborhood, four bodies lay in the street, blood and smoldering debris within an area the size of most American’s living rooms.

As emergency officials moved in, Ali filmed the police. Then he stopped. He says he had no choice.  It could cost him his life.

Ali watched as the officers reached into the victims’ pockets and pulled out their wallets. He says they then stripped the bodies of rings, necklaces and other jewelry.

“What can I do? I can’t say anything. They’ll shoot me,” he said.

It’s unclear if this thievery is a widespread practice, or if this was an isolated incident.

Ali says he’s seen it before. 

“The problem is the police volunteer for the job. There are thieves who join just for this opportunity,” he says.

Flaws in force
His accusations could well be true.

A report issued by the Pentagon and U.S. State Department on Monday details serious flaws in the Iraqi police force.

The U.S. inspectors noted that many Iraqi police officers are not properly vetted — allowing even insurgents to join up, as well as those with criminal records.

“Inducting criminals into the [Iraqi police] is a continual concern,” the report said.

The hastily assembled Iraqi police forces number approximately 94,000 according to the U.S. military.

Dangerous mission
While becoming a police officer in Iraq may offer the temptation to steal, clearly, at the same time, it is a highly dangerous job. The last few days prove just how often the police are targets of insurgents.  

On Sunday, a 500-pound bomb detonated outside a police station in eastern Baghdad. No officers were killed, but at least 22 pedestrians were killed and 25 wounded.

Also on Sunday, the police chief of Baghdad’s Kathimiya district was assassinated while he was driving to work. Two other police officers were shot to death in Baghdad as well, and a police office was killed in Kirkuk.

On Tuesday, a police officer was killed when gunman attacked his car in central Basra, and in Baghdad gunmen attacked the Major Crimes Unit in the Karkh area of the city, leaving at least one policeman injured.

The recent wave of attacks on police is tragic proof that whatever the officer’s motivations are, they are clearly risking their lives by joining the nascent force.

Kerry Sanders is an NBC News corespondent on assignment in Iraq. Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: Police station blast

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