Iraqi Guards Leave Posts Near Baghdad

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Los Angeles Times
February 17, 2008 Members of the Sons of Iraq security corps stage a walkout to protest U.S. airstrikes they say have killed 12 civilians this month.
By Tina Susman and Cesar Ahmed, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
BAGHDAD — U.S.-allied security forces said Saturday that they were abandoning their posts in a volatile area south of Baghdad to protest airstrikes by American forces that they say have killed at least 12 civilians this month.
The walkout followed an airstrike Friday near the town of Jarf Sakhr that tribal leaders said killed three members of the civilian security volunteers credited with helping reduce violence across Iraq. The U.S. military said Friday that helicopters responding to gunfire near Jarf Sakhr fired rockets at a building, but it did not say whether there were casualties.
On Feb. 2, nine Iraqis, including three members of the volunteer group, known as Sons of Iraq, were killed in the same area by an errant airstrike that the U.S. military has acknowledged.
Majeed Janabi, a tribal leader in the area who worked with U.S. forces to establish checkpoints manned by the fighters there, said he did not believe the shootings were a mistake. He said that in Friday's attack, the helicopter landed and U.S. forces fired on the guards.
"The U.S. forces stepped out of their choppers and killed our [forces]," he said. "That means they had time to look at them and their uniforms."
The U.S. military pays the security volunteers, formerly known as concerned local citizens or Awakening Councils, about $10 a day and gives them vests to make them easy to identify. Previously, U.S. officials have said accidental shootings occurred when volunteers were not wearing their vests and were mistaken for insurgents. But some volunteers say there aren't enough vests to go around.
"When we signed the contract with the U.S. forces, it was dependent on working jointly with them," Janabi said. "If they want us to come back, we will, but we need to make another contract that will guarantee our rights and prevent a repeat of such mistakes."
Police in Babil province said about 2,000 of the volunteers had left their posts in Jarf Sakhr and nearby villages Saturday night.
The corps has an estimated 80,000 members across the country, bolstering security in areas without adequate police protection.
Also Saturday, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees said he would send a special representative to Iraq to help resettle people returning home after five years of war. The announcement was a sign of the United Nations' growing confidence in the country's security, but also an acknowledgment that an influx of returnees could spark new conflict if there is no one there to oversee it.
The commissioner, Antonio Guterres, said at a news conference that in addition to naming a special representative, his office soon would increase its staff in Iraq from two to five.
"It is here that the essential work needs to be done, in close cooperation with the government," Guterres said.
A special correspondent in Hillah contributed to this report.