BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – U.S. forces raided the homes of two officials from a prominent Sunni Arab organization Thursday, arresting bodyguards and confiscating weapons, Sunni officials said.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, secretary-general of the Conference for Iraq”s People, was present during the early morning raid on his home in western Baghdad, the group said. No violence was reported when the U.S. soldiers arrested four of his bodyguards and confiscated 20 AK-47 assault rifles, said Mehdi Salih, a spokesman for the conference.
The other raid took place at the Baghdad home of Harith al-Obeidi, another senior official in the organization, said Iraq”s largest Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party.
The U.S. military said it conducted several raids in those areas of Baghdad on Thursday, but couldn”t immediately say which homes or Iraqis had been targeted.
"These raids are based on false tips from people who want to marginalize Sunnis and hinder their participation in the political process," al-Dulaimi said in an interview with Associated Press Television News. "So I appeal to the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union and the U.S. government to intervene to solve this problem."
Both Sunni groups condemned the action, calling it an abuse of Iraq”s Sunni minority, and suggested the raids could derail efforts by Sunnis to get last minute changes in the country”s draft constitution, which will face an Oct. 15 national referendum.
The document has sharply divided Iraq”s Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni minority that forms the backbone of the insurgency. Some Sunnis feel the constitution would divide Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni areas, with the Sunni one having the least power and revenue. The Conference for Iraq”s People, a coalition of Sunni groups, and the Iraqi Islamic Party, which boycotted the Jan. 30 election that chose Iraq”s transitional government, have both urged their members to vote "no" in the constitutional referendum.
In Washington on Wednesday, U.S. President George W. Bush warned that violence will increase in Iraq in the days leading up to the referendum.
"We can expect they”ll do everything in their power to try to stop the march of freedom," Bush said of the insurgents. "And our troops are ready for it."
In two separate attacks in Baghdad on Thursday, suspected insurgents opened fire on a Shiite bakery shop in the Dora neighborhood, killing three civilians, and on a minibus carrying government cleaners to city jails where they work, killing two and wounding seven, police said.
Since Sunday, at least 89 people, including seven U.S. service members, have been killed in attacks in Iraq. That included a suicide bombing in northwestern Iraq on Wednesday during which a woman disguised in a man”s robes and headdress slipped into a line of army recruits and detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing at least six recruits and wounding 35. It was the first known suicide attack by a woman in Iraq”s insurgency.
On Thursday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, condemned the two raids it reported in the capital as "a savage act" and an "unjustifiable aggression" by U.S. forces against Iraqi citizens.
Such treatment of "good Iraqis" could set back efforts to persuade citizens to join efforts to improve security in the war-torn country, the party said in a statement.
Al-Dulaimi”s Conference for Iraq”s People also condemned such raids.
Al-Dulaimi is a prominent and outspoken Sunni official in Iraq. On Aug. 30, at a joint news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, he called for dismissing the country”s Shiite interior minister, accusing his security forces of massacring Sunnis. Al-Dulaimi warned that killings against Sunnis "will only lead to troubles" at a time when U.S. officials are encouraging Sunnis to accept Iraq”s draft constitution.
His call came several days after 36 Sunnis were found shot to death, execution style, in a dry riverbed near the Iranian border after they were kidnapped in Baghdad.