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Iraqi Forces Raid Home of Pro-U.S. Group Leader - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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British soldiers help an Iraqi soldier to clear an obstacle during military training by British forces for Iraqi soldiers at a joint military base in Basra. (R)

British soldiers help an Iraqi soldier to clear an obstacle during military training by British forces for Iraqi soldiers at a joint military base in Basra. (R)

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi security forces raided the home of a provincial leader of U.S.-backed patrols on Tuesday, an incident that could raise tension at a time when the Baghdad government is taking over the programme from the U.S. military.

Mullah Shihab al-Safi, leader of the “Awakening” movement for the volatile Diyala province north of Baghdad, told Reuters troops had raided his house before dawn, arresting his brother and father, in Buhriz, south of the provincial capital Baquba.

Safi said by telephone he was not at home at the time and was now moving from place to place to avoid capture.

The Awakening groups are made up mostly of Sunni Arabs and include many former insurgents who battled U.S. forces and the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad but since have been recruited and paid by the U.S. military to run neighbourhood patrols.

The Iraqi government has been taking over the programme from the U.S. military, beginning this month in Baghdad and spreading to other provinces in coming months.

Officials say they will incorporate 20 percent of the patrol members into the army and police while finding civilian jobs or training for the rest.

But many Awakening leaders say they fear mass arrests from a government that remains hostile to them.

“They have been arresting the leaders for a while. The government are going back on their promises,” Safi said.

Safi said the government troops had also raided the home of the provincial spokesman for the Awakening groups, Laith Saleh, and beat him before arresting him.

Diyala province has been one of the most volatile parts of Iraq, with Sunni militants staging frequent suicide and car bomb attacks. The U.S. military says it is one of the areas where the militants have regrouped since being driven out of other areas.

An Iraqi soldier stands at attention during the handover ceremony of a military base from U.S. forces to the Iraqi army in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad (R)

An Iraqi soldier stands at attention during the handover ceremony of a military base from U.S. forces to the Iraqi army in Yusufiya, south of Baghdad (R)

U.S. soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division hold an Iraqi flag during a handover ceremony with the Iraqi army at Inshon patrol base in Youssifiyah, Iraq. (AP)

U.S. soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division hold an Iraqi flag during a handover ceremony with the Iraqi army at Inshon patrol base in Youssifiyah, Iraq. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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