Iraqi Sunnis Decry Cleric's Arrest Warrant

Iraqi Sunnis Decry Cleric's Arrest Warrant
November 18th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Iraqi Sunnis Decry Cleric's Arrest Warrant

Iraqi Sunnis Decry Cleric's Arrest Warrant
Los Angeles Times
November 18, 2006
At Friday prayers, leaders protest Iraqi Shiite politicians' move.
By Louise Roug, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD Sunni Arabs lashed out at Shiite Muslim politicians during Friday prayers, angrily condemning the government's arrest order for Iraq's top Sunni cleric.
Interior Minister Jawad Bolani announced Thursday that Harith Dhari, chief of the Muslim Scholars Assn., a Sunni group, was wanted for inciting violence. Bolani is a Shiite.
Addressing worshipers Friday at a Sunni mosque in Baghdad, lawmaker Abdul-Kareem Samaraie called Dhari "a symbol" and the warrant "a bullet" that "has now killed whatever is left of reconciliation plans, mercy or forgiveness," he said.
"This is the biggest proof of sectarian bias on the part of this government," said Samaraie, a prominent Sunni.
The Sunni speaker of parliament, Mahmoud Mashadani, also denounced the warrant in a statement, calling it "a dangerous precedent."
The Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni party in government, released a statement condemning the move against Dhari and describing it as the death knell to dialogue between the parties and to reconciliation.
The statement called for the government's resignation, saying the warrant for Dhari, who is in Jordan, was "a cover to hide the government's inability and failure."
From his pulpit in the Sunni heartland of Samarra, Ahmad Taha said the warrant might "split the country" and called it "a sign of segregation, racism [and] sectarianism."
Shiites, who were repressed by minority Sunni Arabs during former President Saddam Hussein's rule, now dominate the government. Sunnis complain that, despite calls for reconciliation, they lack power in the government and face Shiite death squads in the streets.
Highlighting that deep sectarian divide, Shiite preachers praised the government Friday for going after Dhari.
In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, cleric Sadruddin Qubanchi described Dhari as "a symbol of tumult" and a "sheik of thieves," criticizing Sunnis for threatening to pull out of the government.
Samaraie, the Sunni leader, also railed Friday against the government's response to a mass kidnapping of academics at government offices in Baghdad this week.
"The government continues to downplay these incidents," Samaraie said. "Downplaying the impact of this incident will only further encourage these gangsters and militias to act in a reckless manner."
He said Iraqi officials were behind the kidnapping, which he claimed specifically targeted Sunnis. The government's security forces have been infiltrated by Shiite militias, and the gunmen who raided the Higher Education Ministry complex in the capital's Karada neighborhood Tuesday wore police uniforms.
Sunnis say that 70 of the abductees have been released but that as many as 80 are still being held.
Shiite security officials, meanwhile, say that many fewer were taken and that all have been released unharmed.
Times staff writers Zeena Kareem and Said Rifai in Baghdad and special correspondent Saad Fakhrildeen in Najaf contributed to this report.

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