BAGHDAD, (AP) – An arrest warrant against a Sunni Cabinet minister is another step by the Shiite-led government to marginalize the country’s Sunni minority, the official’s political organization said Wednesday.
The comments were made one day after Iraqi commandos raided the Baghdad home of Culture Minister Asad Kamal al-Hashimi and detained about 40 of his guards. The minister was not at home at the time, but officials said a warrant had been issued for his arrest in a 2005 assassination attempt on another politician.
Those moves have angered Sunni groups and politicians, who warn they could jeopardize U.S.-backed reconciliation efforts. The United States has been pushing for a greater role for Sunnis, who dominated Iraq’s politics for decades until the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.
Also Wednesday, roadside bombs killed five policemen north of Baghdad and another five civilians in the capital, police said. Drive-by shootings killed one man and injured six others in Baghdad, and at least three rockets or mortars targeted the heavily guarded Green Zone there.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s military chief asked his government Wednesday to set political guidelines for an incursion into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish guerrillas. But the government is likely to consider military action only as a last resort: Asking parliament to approve such an incursion would strain ties with Washington and Iraq, which oppose such unilateral Turkish action.
Outrage continued among some Sunni politicians in Iraq over al-Hashimi’s arrest warrant. Muhannad al-Issawi, a spokesman for Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi, called the move “a political matter not a judicial one.”
“It aims to marginalize the Sunnis” and their main parliamentary bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, al-Issawi told The Associated Press by telephone.
He said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a Sunni delegation Tuesday that he would halt the moves against al-Hashimi. Al-Maliki’s office denied the claim, saying the case was a matter for the judiciary.
The move against al-Hashimi came after he was identified by two suspected militants as the mastermind of a Feb. 8, 2005, attack against secular politician Mithal al-Alusi, an Iraqi government spokesman said. Al-Alusi escaped unharmed but two of his sons were killed.
“The two who planned and carried out the killings of Mithal al-Alusi’s two sons confessed that they took orders from him,” spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Tuesday.
Al-Issawi questioned why the government was raising the case now even though it is more than two years old.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera television Tuesday, al-Hashimi accused the government of pursuing him as part of a campaign to sideline Sunni politicians.
The U.S. is pressing the Iraqis to enact a series of laws to bring together the country’s warring factions. Sunni politicians have long accused the Shiites of seeking to marginalize them.
In scattered violence Wednesday, five policemen were killed in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, a hospital official said on condition of anonymity out of security concerns. Afterward, police opened fire randomly on the area, killing one civilian and wounding two others, the official said.
Five civilians died later in northern Baghdad, when a bomb planted under a car exploded, police said. Ten people were also injured in the blast, they said.
Unknown gunmen opened fire on a civilian car in a southwestern section of the capital, killing a man and wounding his son who was riding with him, police said.
In another incident, police said gunmen opened fire on a minibus in western Baghdad, injuring five civilians including the driver. The victims were two Shiite men and their wives, heading to the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of the capital, police said. The shooting took place in a predominantly Sunni Muslim neighborhood.
Four pedestrians were also wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad, in the commercial Palestine Street area, police said. The bomb had apparently targeted a U.S. military convoy, but there was no word on any American casualties, they added.
In Turkey, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit asked his government to set political guidelines for an incursion into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish guerrillas who have targeted Turkey.
The military chief had asked his government in April to approve a cross-border incursion into Iraq, increasing pressure on the United States and Iraq to crack down on Kurdish rebels. But the government said then that priority should be given to fighting guerrillas who are already inside Turkey.