Dozens Arrested in Raid on Compound Of Sunni Politician

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 1, 2007

BAGHDAD, Nov. 30 -- The leader of Iraq's largest Sunni political bloc said the Shiite-led government placed him under house arrest Friday after detaining his son and dozens of guards, aggravating the sectarian tension within the country's leadership.

U.S. and Iraqi military officials said they detained more than 40 employees of Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the Iraqi Accordance Front, after one was found with keys to a car rigged with explosives and two others were accused of killing a member of a neighborhood watch group.

In a telephone interview from his home in the capital's Adil neighborhood, Dulaimi demanded that the government release all the detained men -- including his son, Maki, 38, and a spokesman for his political party, Mohammed al-Issawi -- who he said were innocent victims of a politically motivated raid.

"This will have very negative impact on attempts to reach national reconciliation," Dulaimi said. "The government is trying to pressure me to side with them and be silent, but this is just going to increase the crisis."

The government has been in disarray since the summer, when a number of ministers--including six from Dulaimi's bloc -- left the cabinet. Many senior Shiite leaders have all but dismissed Sunnis such as Dulaimi as terrorists who have no place in the government.

"How can we work with a man who kills Iraqis and hides car bombs in his office?" Sami al-Askari, a Shiite legislator close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said of Dulaimi. "He should have been detained because he was caught red-handed in criminal acts."

The standoff began Thursday afternoon with the killing of Omar Mohammed, a member of one of the largely Sunni neighborhood watch groups formed by the American military, about a block from Dulaimi's office compound, according to a senior U.S. military official.

Witnesses saw two men involved in the shooting flee and hide in Dulaimi's compound, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

American and Iraqi soldiers then entered Dulaimi's office complex and found eight guards, two of whom tested positive for explosive residue on their hands, the official said. He said a car wired with an explosive device was also discovered outside the compound, and one of the guards was found with the vehicle's keys.

Thirteen Dulaimi security guards -- eight from the complex and five from a nearby checkpoint -- were detained by Iraqi security forces, but one escaped, according to the U.S. military. The soldiers shot at him while he fled, injuring two civilians, who were taken to a hospital, the official said. Their conditions were unknown.

Five U.S. soldiers suffered minor injuries when they came to defuse the car bomb, the military said.

Early Friday, Iraqi security forces returned with American troops to Dulaimi's home and arrested an additional 31 people, the U.S. official said. According to Dulaimi, however, more than 50 people were detained in all.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company