MOSUL, Iraq, (Reuters) – Iraqi authorities have re -arrested 18 policemen who had been detained but then freed over the reprisal killing of up to 70 Sunni Arab men in the northern town of Tal Afar this week, police said on Friday.
The governor of Nineveh province, which includes Tal Afar, had said on Thursday that policemen who took part in the shootings were released to prevent unrest.
Shi’ite gunmen including police went on the killing spree hours after truck bomb attacks in Tal Afar killed 85 people in a Shi’ite area on Tuesday.
Police in the nearby city of Mosul said the 18 policemen had been re-arrested. It was unclear where they were being held.
Nineveh provincial governor Durad Kashmula had said the culprits would be brought to justice in due course.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, has ordered an inquiry into the involvement of police in the killings.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, confirmed on Thursday police appeared to have carried out “retribution killings” after the bombings, which he blamed on al Qaeda.
Tal Afar was held up by U.S. President George W. Bush only a year ago as an example of progress towards peace in Iraq.
Militia infiltration of security forces has long been a problem in restoring stability to Iraq, with many Sunni Arabs complaining they are unfairly targeted by police and army.