BAGHDAD - The US-led coalition occupying Iraq announced on Wednesday it would offer a reward of 10,000 dollars to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of people who carry out acts of sabotage or are plotting such attacks.
"A financial reward of 10,000 dollars will be offered to those who provide information about attacks that were carried out or are being planned, and which would help mete out justice to criminals," said a message broadcast on the coalition radio.
"Attacks against power stations and oil pipelines ... are clearly aimed at making the Iraqi people live in poverty," the radio said, blaming acts of sabotage that have targeted such facilities on "small groups loyal to the former regime" of deposed president Saddam Hussein.
"You have a duty to protect your country by informing on, or providing information about, past and planned attacks against the Iraqi people, their vital installations or coalition forces," it said.
The announcement comes at a time when US forces are stepping up sweeps both for Saddam loyalists suspected of staging anti-US attacks and criminals wreaking havoc in post-war Iraq, accusing the two of being in cahoots.
US forces were buoyed by last week's killing of Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay in a massive raid in northern Iraq that followed a tip-off from an Iraqi informant who qualified for the 30-million-dollar prizes on the two men's heads.
Saddam himself has a 25-million-dollar bounty riding on his head.
Meanwhile, US forces in Iraq arrested 559 people in a 24-hour period ending Wednesday, the military said as its pursuit of the elusive Saddam Hussein continued full force.
The Americans conducted a total of 51 raids and 1,977 patrols, including 287 joint patrols with Iraqi police, as they scoured desert and town in their "aggressive" search for former regime loyalists and the fugitive dictator himself.
"The total raids and patrols resulted in 559 arrests including two for murder, four for robbery, five for aggravated assault, 39 for theft, two for controlled substance violation, 235 for weapons violations and 272 for various other crimes," US Central Command said in a statement.
The arrests were significantly higher than the figures normally announced by the military, reflecting the aggressive tactics being pursued on the ground, particularly in the region of Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.
On Tuesday, an army spokesman said 176 people were arrested in a similar number of patrols and raids, while "very significant" weapons caches were seized, including 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).
President George W. Bush said Wednesday that he did not know how close US forces in Iraq were to catching Saddam.
"I don't know how close we are to getting Saddam Hussein. Closer than we were yesterday, I guess. All I know is, we're on the hunt," Bush said at a solo news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
US-led forces in Iraq are "slowly, but surely, making progress of bringing those who terrorize their fellow citizens to justice, and making progress about convincing the Iraqi people that freedom is real."
And as Iraqis "become more convinced that freedom is real, they'll begin to assume more responsibilities that are required in a free society."
US troops have launched a string of raids around Iraq over the past days in the hunt for Saddam and his remaining loyalists, hoping to end the guerrilla campaign against them and the crime wave threatening Iraq's reconstruction.
An Arab satellite television network late Tuesday aired an audiotape attributed to Saddam.
"We thank God for honoring us with their martyrdom" after a "valiant battle with the enemy lasting six hours," said the voice on the tape aired by the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television network, referring to the July 22 killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Three US soldiers were wounded in two RPG attacks Tuesday and Wednesday in Samarra, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Baghdad, while a US tank was hit Wednesday by an RPG outside Fallujah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad, causing little damage, witnesses said.