Author Topic: U.S. Army brings Internet to Saddam's hometown  (Read 83 times)


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U.S. Army brings Internet to Saddam's hometown
« on: August 24, 2003, 12:01:57 AM »
TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) -- The U.S. Army opened the first unrestricted Internet access in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit on Saturday in a bid to convince skeptical Iraqis their occupation will bring tangible benefits.

"This Internet cafe we are inaugurating gives people in Tikrit for the first time total freedom of access to the Web," Major Troy Rader, in charge of the project, told Reuters.

"It is one of many reconstruction projects we are doing here to help local people," he added at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Tikrit closely guarded by troops.

Local residents said Internet access prior to the toppling of Saddam was restricted to government-approved sites and was closely monitored by state security services.

Though many Iraqis are suspicious of U.S. motives -- saying the troops are here to secure oil and take out Saddam loyalists rather than rebuild the nation -- Tikritis enthusiastically welcomed the Internet cafe.

"Before, we had no free e-mail, no chat, no good information, no connection with the world," cafe user Asim Abdullah said. "We were in a big jail."

Some in Tikrit told of how they occasionally used to circumvent Saddam's restrictions -- at risk of punishment.

Naji Dawood Khalid, who works at the new cafe, said at the previous government-controlled Internet office on the same site, he would allow some trusted friends to surf more freely.

"But they were watching in Baghdad and they would call and say 'Computer No. 11 is using a bad site' so it was a big risk. Once, they cut my wages by half and threatened to put me in jail," he said.

Khalid hid the computers from the old locale in his house during the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq, and the new cafe has taken nearly four months to set up using a U.S.-provided satellite dish to connect with a Dubai-based company.

The project cost $26,000 from a local U.S. military commander's discretionary fund, of which some $1 million has been spent in the area around Tikrit, north of Baghdad.

The inauguration of the cafe was delayed several times because of attacks in Tikrit from anti-American guerrillas, including an explosion nearby which blew the windows out and damaged equipment barely a week previously.

"This place is serving the Iraqi people, not the Americans, so it would be stupid to attack us," Internet cafe manager Hashim Hassan told Reuters, watching nervously as U.S. Humvee vehicles lined up outside the building on Tikrit's main highway.

Tikrit was a bedrock of support for Saddam, toppled more than four months ago, and remains a restive focus of resistance to the American occupation.

Just hours before the U.S. military inaugurated the cafe in front of a clutch of foreign journalists, a mortar was fired at their base round the corner. There were no injuries.

U.S. military spokesmen said the troops were helping set up a string of new Internet cafes across Iraq.

In Tikrit on Saturday, new users were eagerly checking news about British football and Hollywood celebrities, as well as testing out search engines by typing in requests for "George Bush" and "Saddam Hussein."


Copyright 2003 Reuters.

Jay ay Beee

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Re:U.S. Army brings Internet to Saddam's hometown
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2003, 02:20:50 PM »
"Yup, many of you don't have a water supply, and are struggling for food.  But you can post on WCC. Congrats!"

Don Seer

Re:U.S. Army brings Internet to Saddam's hometown
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2003, 04:18:20 PM »