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Attacks in Baghdad Kill 13 U.S. Soldiers in 3 Days
"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. "The government of Iraq had lost trust and confidence in the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division's ability to serve the public due to their poor performance and alleged criminal wrongdoings."
The move appeared to represent a new effort by Iraqi officials to root out corruption in the Iraqi security forces, which are widely believed to be infiltrated by militias and death squads that do more to exacerbate sectarian tensions than protect citizens. Caldwell said the brigade will undergo "anti-militia, anti-sectarian violence and national unity training."
The brigade's commander might be charged with a crime, and the head of the unit's second regiment has already been arrested, said Brig. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman. "They are both under investigation to know how all this happened without the security forces interfering to stop it," he said.
Also on Wednesday, a top aide to Moqtada al-Sadr said the anti-American cleric has specific information that U.S.-led coalition forces plan to launch a major attack on Sadr City, a Shiite slum in Baghdad filled with his followers.
"They want to turn it into mass graves similar to the previous ones conducted by the former regime," said the aide, Sahib al-Amery. "The occupation forces want to start a sectarian crisis on the pretext that there are Shiite militias."
The United States and Sadr have clashed frequently since the 2003 invasion, and some military officials have been calling for more aggressive moves against the Sadr-controlled Mahdi Army, which is considered to be a militia by nearly everyone in Iraq. On Wednesday, though, Amery disputed that characterization.
"The Mahdi Army is a doctrinal and ideological army, not a militia," he said. "It has no camps or headquarters, and its weapons are self-owned by its members. We in the Shiite areas, we have no terrorist groups or organizations. These are found in the Sunni areas only."
Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson and staff researcher Robert E. Thomason in Washington and special correspondents Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.