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Baghdad Overrun With Corrupt Police

An Iraqi soldier, Baghdad.
By Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Oct 04 2006
The Iraqi government late Tuesday recalled an entire national police brigade from northwest Baghdad for complicity with death squads, a U.S. official said Wednesday. "I don't know what degree any of the leadership knew, but there is clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when in fact they were supposed to have been impeding their movement, that perhaps they did not respond as rapidly when reports were made" said Maj. Gen. William Thurman, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

"It was very clear, when you went through the reports, that the police forces, the individuals -- again, we don't know what levels of complicity within the organization they are -- had not in fact put their full allegiance and commitment behind the government in Iraq and instead had maintained it to some other elements outside of the national police who were there to serve the people. And because of that, that force had to be pulled off line," Thurman said.

The 8th Brigade of the 2nd National Police Division was pulled from Baghdad Wednesday with no notice and will undergo retraining at a police academy north of Baghdad. Its members will also be investigated for possible involvement with death squads and other criminal activity.

"If that organization comes back out at 30 percent of what it went in with, that's okay with the government of Iraq," he said.

The troubled 800-man brigade came to the Iraqi government's attention after U.S. forces in Iraq undertook a battalion-by-battalion assessment of Iraq's national police, a 25,000-man paramilitary organization meant to bridge the gap between traditional military forces and local police.

The 8th Brigade force was sent to Baghdad to stem violence against civilians from Shiite death squads and Sunni insurgents, and avert a feared civil war.

But according to the U.S. military, it may have been participating in it. There have long been allegations that the Iraqi Interior Ministry and police force had been infiltrated by Shiite militias who use their positions to conduct and conceal sectarian-motivated executions. While small police units have been targeted in probes, this is the first major unit the Iraqi government has taken down because of it.

In November and December 2005, U.S. forces and Iraqi forces discovered two secret jails run by special police commandoes associated with Iraq's interior ministry. Nearly 200 prisoners there had been starved, beaten and tortured. Those two revelations spawned a review of the nearly 1,000 individual jails in Iraq.

The Iraqi government has publicly played down the role of Interior Ministry forces in sectarian violence, blaming some of the problem on death squads who impersonate police. To address that, it is issuing new uniforms to all national police.

In June, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a multi-month offensive in Baghdad called Operation Together Forward to tackle violence in the capital city. Numbers of U.S. troops were increased in late July when the offensive -- an effort to clear neighborhoods of criminals and death squads block by block -- were unable to. There are now some 55,000 Iraqi forces and 12,000 U.S. forces there, including a U.S. Stryker brigade held over in Iraq for an additional four months beyond its year-long deadline.

In June and July alone more than 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed execution-style in Baghdad alone.

"Over the past three months, murders and executions have caused the majority of civilian deaths in Iraq. Operations do continue against these death squads," Thurman said.

The fight for Baghdad continues to be a pitched battle. According to Thurman, 18 American service members were killed in the last 96 hours, most of them in Baghdad. And last week, U.S. forces saw the highest number of car bombs so far this year. Improvised explosive devices are also at an all-time high.

"From what we can see, the trend line has been up over the last couple of months and has not been a downward trend in terms of the number of vehicle IEDs we're seeing. You know, the trending is what we watch very closely," Thurman said.

Source: United Press International

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