Well-organized, heavily armed, out-of-state street gangs from as far away as Memphis, Dallas and Miami invaded New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina evacuation of the city and turned it into a “free-fire zone,” said military analyst Col. David Hunt.

Hunt made the charges on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” last night, saying local police forces were unprepared, outgunned and overwhelmed.

“It was as bad as the early days in Baghdad,” said the Fox military analyst.

He accused some police officers of complicity and participating in the looting. Hunt also said the New Orleans Police Department had only three boats to cruise the flooded streets and two were not operable.

The gangs fought for turf in the nearly deserted, flooded streets of the city for six days, terrorizing those left behind and looting shops, jewelry stores, museums and banks.

While as many as 3,000 people were involved in looting, according to authorities, only 325 were arrested – most of those local kids stealing TVs and other appliances, said Hunt. Most of the other perpetrators, including the outside gang members, got away.

Hunt, a critic of Louisiana state officials’ handling of the evacuation and its aftermath, has said they “would not pull the trigger” on getting federal help when it was needed.

He has also criticized U.S. officials for not federalizing the National Guard troops on the ground.

Because local officials were not properly equipped with satellite phones, “the communications grid dropped right off the face of the earth in New Orleans.”

“What I’m talking about is there were no eyes on the ground in New Orleans to know the extent of this disaster,” he said.

While the death toll approaches 500 in New Orleans, rescue and recovery workers say they’ve found many victims who died from gunshot wounds and other forms of violence apparently inflicted by gangs who terrorized the city after the storm struck.

New Orleans fire and rescue worker Gary Hatch said the first bodies he recovered died of either gunshot wounds or had their throats slit.

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