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Police brigade gets sidelined in Baghdad

Police brigade gets sidelined in Baghdad

Iraqi authorities pulled a brigade of about 700 policemen out of service in its biggest move ever to uproot troops linked to death squads, aiming to signal the government's seriousness in cleansing Baghdad of sectarian violence.
The government move Wednesday came amid steadily mounting violence, particularly in the capital. A U.S. military spokesman said the past week had seen the highest number of car bombs and roadside bombs in Baghdad this year.
The suspension of the police brigade was the first time the Iraqi government has taken such dramatic action to discipline security forces over possible links to militiamen, though some individual soldiers have been investigated in the past. Baghdad's Sunnis widely fear the Shiite-led police, saying they are infiltrated by militias and accusing them of cooperating with death squads who snatch Sunnis and kill them.
The brigade was responsible for a region of northeast Baghdad with a slight Shiite majority, where gunmen on Sunday kidnapped 24 workers from a frozen food factory. Hours later, the bodies of seven of the workers were found dumped in a district miles away.
Sunni politicians have said all those who were kidnapped were Sunnis. They blamed Shiite militias for the abduction and accused police of allowing the gunmen to escape and move freely with their captives.
Brigadier Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the chief ministry spokesman, said the brigade was being investigated because it "didn't respond quickly" to the kidnapping.
The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, Major General William B. Caldwell, said the police brigade in the area had been ordered to stand down and was undergoing retraining. He said some were being investigated and that any found to have militia ties would be removed.
"The government of Iraq was very clear as we go through this process that if that (unit) comes out at 30 percent of what it went in with, that's OK with the government of Iraq," he told a Baghdad news conference.
"There is clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when, in fact, they were supposed to have been impeding their movement," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said problems with the unit had emerged during a broad brigade-by-brigade assessment of police in Baghdad carried out by the U.S. military over the summer - and the decision was made by the Interior Ministry to act Tuesday.


Updated : 2021-06-19 11:29 GMT+08:00