Los Angeles Times: About 100 U.S. and Iraqi troops raided an Interior Ministry administrative and detention facility Sunday night, at least in part to check on the welfare of prisoners held inside.
Los Angeles Times
Police at the Baghdad compound are said to be affiliated with a Shiite Muslim militia.
By Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD – About 100 U.S. and Iraqi troops raided an Interior Ministry administrative and detention facility Sunday night, at least in part to check on the welfare of prisoners held inside.
“We’re assisting any possible injured inside, checking their medical condition,” said Capt. John Aguello with the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. “We’re verifying their paperwork.”
An Iraqi police source said the soldiers entered the low-slung bunker and ordered police officers stationed there to disperse.
The ministry compound was a center for police officers affiliated with the Badr Brigade, a Shiite Muslim militia, according to an Iraqi politician who lives nearby and to the police source, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
Falah Nakib, the politician, said police guards at the site told U.S. soldiers that there were only 40 prisoners there but that military personnel told him they found approximately four times that number.
Nakib, a member of parliament and former interior minister who maintains contacts with the police forces, said he was aware of cases in which Iraqi police had abused detainees.
In an interview Saturday, U.S. military spokesman Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said that American and Iraqi officials were investigating all charges of police abuse.
U.S. officials have increasingly expressed concerns in recent weeks about Shiite militia presence in the Iraqi police force and persistent allegations of abuses and suspicious deaths. U.S. officials have also alleged that Sunni Muslim insurgent elements are working within the police force, though in smaller numbers.
Scores of bodies have been discovered in Baghdad and elsewhere around Iraq, handcuffed, blindfolded and shot through the head. Relatives of the dead often say that the last time they saw their loved ones, they were being led away by Iraqi police officers.
U.S. and Iraqi soldiers arrived in Humvees and troop personnel trucks and ordered Iraqi police stationed at the facility to disperse. As U.S. officials looked through records inside the building, Iraqi soldiers wearing ski masks and camouflage uniforms set up a perimeter outside.
Nakib, who led the ministry during the interim government of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, lives near the building and said that it held Iraqi detainees from far-flung areas including Fallouja and Tall Afar, Sunni Arab strongholds that have been the scenes of several large counterinsurgency offensives.
Sitting in his large living room in front of a massive television entertainment center, Nakib said the raid was another sign of problems with Iraq’s 111,000-member police force.
“They have killed or fired or isolated all the well-trained professionals in the ministry and let them do nothing,” he said. “Then they depend on maybe 150 Badr militia” members.
Sunni Arab leaders, meanwhile, on Sunday condemned a series of raids by Iraqi soldiers and police in Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of the capital, which led to the arrests of more than 360 people, including a high-ranking judge, local legislators and the mayor.
More than 600 Iraqi troops launched the campaign Saturday, the same day that two Marines died in an unrelated bombing near Fallouja, about 35 miles west of Baghdad, and a U.S. soldier died in a vehicle accident in Rawah, near the Syrian border.
A U.S. military spokesman confirmed that American troops also participated in the Baqubah raids, though as of early today he did not know how many or in what role.
Iraqi Gen. Mohammed Hassan, the commander of the operation, said the raids might continue today and that police and army troops also had been dispatched to other towns in Diyala province, including Kanaan, Buhriz and Balad Ruz, all within a few miles of Baqubah.
“We are here to save the people from the terrorists,” Hassan said. In addition to those already captured, he said, “we have the names of 200 wanted.”
But Diyala Deputy Gov. Awf Rahoomi complained that Iraqi troops were indiscriminately arresting prominent local officials and others for political reasons.
“These arrests are based on falsified information submitted by political rivals on the Iraqi political scene because we are approaching the next elections” in December, Rahoomi said.
Police commandos and Iraqi soldiers arrested Baqubah’s mayor, Khalid Sinjuri; criminal Judge Saab Kohrshid; provincial Councilman Mohammed Kamil and several prominent members of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni organization that is planning to compete for parliament seats in next month’s election, Rahoomi said. Also arrested in the raids were physicians, former Iraqi army officers and members of the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
“The judge’s detention was so inhuman and degrading,” Rahoomi said. “He was put in a truck along with others who might have been criminals or thugs, and he was handcuffed and blindfolded.”
“Such campaigns are intended to cause Iraqis to fight among themselves and at causing division in one town before the elections,” said Sheik Mohammed Bashar Faidi, a representative of the Sunni-led Muslim Scholars Assn.
Local officials with the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Muslim Scholars Assn. and several tribes said they planned to hold protest demonstrations in Baqubah today, Rahoomi said.