U.S. Seizes $600M Stash

Director Lee Daniels arrives for the premiere of his movie "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," at AFI Fest 2009 in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009. The dark urban drama, which took top honors at Sundance, opens in U.S. cinemas on Friday. AP

U.S. soldiers searching for street looters stumbled on a huge cache of cash Tuesday – more than $600 million in $100 bills possibly looted from Iraq's oil revenues.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims crowded two holy cities in a fervent pilgrimage that had been banned for decades under Saddam Hussein.

And at the United Nations, France proposed suspending sanctions targeting Iraqi civilians. The move follows President Bush's call last week for the sanctions to be lifted so Iraq's oil revenues can be used to finance reconstruction.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart says Saddam's regime apparently had the same problem as the Colombian drug cartels: It was so awash in U.S. currency it had trouble hiding it all. This batch was found behind a false wall in a Baghdad home; weighing some 13,000 pounds, it took a forklift and an 18-wheeler to handle it all.

If it isn't counterfeit, then together with a previous stash found stuffed into carryall-sized tin cans, that means more than $1.2 billion in currency and gold has been recovered so far. And experts say that's just Saddam's loose-change jar.

"I would imagine that in gross, (Saddam) probably has something in the neighborhood of $20-$25 billion," said investigator Jules Kroll.

In other developments:

  • American troops Tuesday caught several members of the Free Iraqi Forces – exiles trained, equipped and financed by the Untied States – looting homes in a wealthy Baghdad neighborhood.

  • Lights went back on in Baghdad for a lucky few, but more than 80 percent of the city remained in darkness – and doctors reported the first suspected cases of cholera and typhoid, with no clean running water yet.

  • The U.S. Army occupied the northern city of Mosul from the air and on the ground Tuesday with little resistance except scattered small-arms fire. Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, is home to several ethnic groups, including Arabs and ethnic Kurds, who share it uneasily.

  • In northern Iraq, Jay Garner, the retired American general overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq, got a warm welcome when he visited the Kurdish region. "You always make me feel at home," Garner told one Kurdish leader.

  • Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix criticized the U.S. for using "shaky" evidence to make its case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He said U.N. inspectors were ready to return to Iraq to verify the discovery of any illegal weapons. But the U.S. said coalition forces were assuming the responsibilities for disarming Iraq.

  • An interim police chief appointed by the U.S. Army began work in Baghdad, taking command of hundreds of Iraqi police already patrolling the streets. U.S. military officials say Iraqi police must defer to U.S. troops or face arrest and treatment as prisoners of war.

  • Jordan's King Abdullah, in an interview with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, said its important "to give an Iraqi face to the future of Iraq as quickly as possible." He said leaders associated with Saddam's government may be the only alternative to the growing Islamist movement. He envisions only "a minor role" in a new Iraqi government for U.S.-backed opposition leaders.

    Finding all of te regime's riches could prove difficult. What records Saddam and his aides didn't destroy themselves at their palaces was soon trampled by looters. The trick now, say investigators, is to find the accounts before Saddam or his loyalists can hide the money in cyberspace.

    "It's a race," says Kroll. "The people who steal the money have technology available to them that they may not have had a few years ago."

    And it's not all in cash either. Saddam was an investor, owning shares in many European firms through dummy corporations. Investigators say there's no evidence, however, he ever invested in the American stock market.

    In southern Iraq, Shiites streamed toward Najaf — burial shrine of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad — and Karbala, where Hussein, Muhammad's grandson, was martyred in the 7th century.

    During Saddam's rule, the Shiites were forbidden to march. This year, they marched openly under black banners of mourning. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations director at U.S. Central Command, said there were estimates of more than 1 million people participating

    "We were prohibited from visiting these shrines for a long time by the Baath Party and their agents," Abed Ali Ghilani said in Karbala. "This year we thank God for ridding us of the dictator Saddam Hussein and for letting us visit these shrines."

    Karbala was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pilgrims, waving black and green flags, chanting and beating their chests. Others carried photos of revered Shiite clerics.

    U.S. troops were largely out of sight, with a few members of the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress at checkpoints.

    Two groups of 100 men in white robes slashed open their own heads with swords, splattering blood. Waving the bloody blades toward the shrine and screaming with joy, some were taken away in cars for medical attention. Others washed at a traditional Iraqi bathhouse.

    At the largely peaceful pilgrimage in Karbala, U.S. military officials said police arrested six men who had been planning to blow up two mosques. Five of those arrested were members of Saddam's Baath Party, and one said he belonged to al Qaeda, said Army Capt. Jimmie Cummings.

    The White House welcomed the huge Shiite outpouring in Iraq, but warned the new Iraqi government shouldn't be an Iranian-style Islamic state. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said it would be wrong to free Iraqis from Saddam's tyranny only to subject them to "a different type of dictatorship."
    • Joel Roberts

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