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Sunni Forces Losing Patience With U.S.
Within hours, more than 1,000 fighters walked away from their posts. Sabah al-Janabi, who heads the Awakening in the area, publicly criticized the U.S. military, alleging it had killed 19 of his men in the past 45 days, which U.S. commanders deny.
"Now, I have fighters who refuse to go back to their positions," said Fadhil Youssef, another Awakening leader in the area. "They are saying, 'I am standing on road, securing my neighborhood, and Americans come and kill me. So why am I standing there?' "
In the village of Zaab, west of the northern city of Kirkuk, police officials and witnesses said U.S. forces on Feb. 14 killed six relatives of an Awakening leader, Issa Muhsin al-Jubouri, and detained him and others. In an interview last week, after his release, he said U.S. soldiers had "raised their weapons in my face and shouted at me, 'Confess or I will shoot you.'
"They beat me and cursed me and made me face the wall, saying to me, 'You have exploited the Awakening to support the terrorists,' " Jubouri said. "I kept saying, 'You are mistaken, because I and my family have been victims of terrorists.' "
U.S. military officials confirmed that six people, including two women, were killed, among them several Awakening members, and that a dozen were detained. But the officials said U.S. troops were targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq and acted in self-defense after being fired upon. When asked about Jubouri's allegations, Maj. Brad Leighton, a U.S. military spokesman, replied: "It's combat. I would not expect our guys to be gentle when conducting an operation on a place where we suspect there are terrorists."
The incidents illustrate a vexing problem for the American military: The Awakening movement has grown so fast that it has become difficult for U.S. commanders to monitor the fighters and their loyalties.
"It's clear there are extremist groups that have penetrated the Concerned Local Citizens, that there may be in fact al-Qaeda amongst the Concerned Local Citizens," said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a senior military spokesman.
Jubouri said his 800 fighters had taken huge risks to ally with the U.S. military and faced allegations that they are "agents for the Americans."
"If there is no apology, or no compensation, or failure to produce the informers before us, we will carry arms against the Americans," Jubouri said.
Demands in Diyala
Nowhere are the tensions more serious than in Diyala, one of the major battlegrounds in the U.S. fight against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Awakening groups, also known here as Popular Committees, are demanding the resignation of the Shiite provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghanem al-Qureishi. They accuse him of running death squads and torturing Sunnis, allegations that Qureishi denied in an interview. The Awakening leaders are also seeking recognition as an official force.
On Wednesday, they vowed to dissolve the committees if their demands were not met. "In the last 10 months, we haven't received any kind of assistance or help from Americans or Iraqi government," said Abu Talib, a top Awakening leader. "On the contrary, the police started to hunt us down."
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani said that Qureishi was highly valued and that such "good men" would be protected. "An accusation does not mean the crime actually took place," Bolani said.