BAQUBA - Militia from the Shia organization Badr have taken over the police
force in Diyala province north of Baghdad, residents say.
The government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is believed to have backed
such infiltration, and this has reportedly led to clashes with U.S. military
The Daily Telegraph in London has reported that Maliki and Gen. David
Petraeus, U.S. commander of the multinational force in Iraq, have clashed over
moves by the U.S. general to arm some Sunni groups. Sectarian tensions between
Sunni and Shia Muslims has grown amid Iraqi government policies seen as supportive
of Shias. Maliki is from the Dawa Party backed by Shia Iran.
In Baquba, capital of Diyala province and 30 mi. northeast of Baghdad, residents
say the Shia Badr Organization, the armed wing of the politically dominant Supreme
Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), has been dominant in the province since the early
months of the occupation.
The Badr Organization managed to fill leadership positions in city and province,
while Sunni Iraqis remained largely unrepresented.
In this setup, many sectarian killings have been carried out by the Badr Organization,
often under cover of the local police, residents told IPS.
The SIIC and the Dawa Party of the prime minister are politically affiliated.
Maliki is secretary-general of the Dawa Party, and he spent time in exile in
Iran after leading insurgent groups against former president Saddam Hussein.
Maliki came to be prime minister after political pressure from U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice and former British foreign secretary Jack Straw forced
former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, also from the Dawa Party, to
Residents of this violence-plagued city told IPS that it is common for Iraqi
police and army forces, most of whom are militiamen with the Badr Organization,
to raid homes of Sunnis during the night and take away men, who are later found
dead in the street.
As a result, groups have begun to set up blocks to prevent police patrols from
entering their districts at night. There have been several clashes in these
districts between residents and people wearing police uniforms attempting to
"All the attacks on the Iraqi police and army have been a reaction to
the sectarian orientation of the police and Iraqi army," Ali Juma'a, a
retired Iraqi army officer told IPS. "They [Badr Organization-affiliated
Iraqi police] targeted the officers of the previous Iraq army, military pilots
who took part in the Iraq-Iran war, members of the Ba'ath Party, and others."
"Police vehicles are often accompanied by civilian cars," a resident
said, declining to give his name. "These cars are driven by civilians who
are new to the city, we never saw them here in the past." Many residents
say they have seen such cars at the police headquarters in Diyala.
The IPS correspondent saw one such car near an Iraqi army checkpoint
the car, like others that residents describe, was a 1993-94 Toyota. In the back
seat were two blindfolded civilians with their hands tied behind their backs.
Day after day, trust in the Iraqi government and its security forces diminishes.
This is in the face of increasing popular support for the Iraqi resistance.
Local support for the resistance, particularly in Sunni areas, has risen as
resistance groups began to protect residents from Badr Organization death squads.
The death squads are notorious for using checkpoints to look at identity cards
of drivers, who are then disappeared if they are of the "wrong" sect.
The chief commander of police is from Khirnabat village, whose residents are
all Shia. The commander was nominated by the SIIC.
"Coalition forces received complaints about the checkpoint at Jamhoriya
Bridge [in the center of Baquba, 100 meters from the police headquarters], and
later they found a prison in the villages Khirnabat and Huwaider [also a Shia
village] and freed all the Sunni prisoners," local resident Hadi Hassan
IPS spoke with a Sunni man named Ammar al-Samaraee who had been arrested at
the checkpoint and sent to Huwaider village. His father is a well-known figure
in the community and managed to have Ammar released after paying $15,000 in
ransom. Ammar suffered a broken shoulder and bruises up and down his body.
A Sunni man held prisoner inside the central prison for Diyala province spoke
with IPS on the condition of anonymity. "There were more than 250 prisoners
with me in the prison and all of them were Sunni except one man named Hussein,
who was Shia, and was charged with killing his nephew."
Shia men who were imprisoned would often be freed by a Shia clerk at the prison,
"The entire Iraqi police department for Diyala province is run and controlled
by the SIIC and not by the government," the former prisoner added. "And
95 percent of the staff are Shia."
(Inter Press Service)