U.S. to Iraq: Curb Use of Shiite Militias

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
By ROBERT H. REID - Associated Press Writer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - (AP) The United States warned Iraqi officials
Thursday against allowing Shiite militias a role in the security services
following allegations of torture of Sunni Arabs by the Shiite-led Interior
The official in charge of the ministry said torture claims were
Sectarian rhetoric sharpened four days after U.S. troops found up to
173 malnourished detainees _ some showing signs of torture _ in an Interior
Ministry building in the capital's Jadriyah district. Most were believed to
be Sunni Arabs, the main group in the insurgency.
A leader of a major Sunni party, Tariq al-Hashimi, told Iraq's
Sharqiyah television that his group had submitted 50 complaints of prisoner
abuse to the government, "but we did not receive a timely response."
Interior Minister Bayn Jabr, a Shiite, brushed aside the complaints,
denied sectarian bias and claimed that "every time" al-Hashimi has
differences with him "he exerts pressure on me through the U.S. Embassy."
"I reject torture and I will punish those who perform torture," Jabr
said. "No one was beheaded, no one was killed" _ a clear reference to the
beheadings of foreign and Iraqi hostages by insurgents, including al-Qaida's
Iraq wing.
He also said "those who are supporting terrorism are making the
exaggerations" about torture and that only seven detainees showed signs of
"They have described the Interior Minster's office as a place of
execution," Jabr said. "Let him come to show me if there is an execution
place in this shelter."
In a statement Thursday, the U.S. Embassy said Iraqi authorities had
given assurances they will investigate the conditions of the detainees found
Sunday night and that the abuse of prisoners "will not be tolerated by
either the Iraqi government" or U.S.-led forces.
"We have made clear to the Iraqi government that there must not be
militia or sectarian control or direction of Iraqi security forces,
facilities or ministries," the U.S. statement added.
Prominent Sunni Arabs have complained for months about abuse by
Interior Ministry forces, whom they say have been infiltrated by Shiite
militias. The Sunnis called for an international inquiry after the detainees
were found at the lockup in Jadriyah.
The government denies the militia allegations.
Last May, however, officials confirmed a Shiite militia affiliated
with Jabr's party helped capture five men wanted in a deadly car bombing in
Baghdad. Another Shiite militia took part in a joint raid with police last
month southeast of the capital in which about 20 people were killed.
The U.S. statement seemed designed to reassure the Sunni Arab
minority that the Americans are keen to defend their interests at a time
when Washington is encouraging a big Sunni Arab turnout in the Dec. 15
election _ hoping that will help take the steam out of the insurgency.
America's death toll rose Thursday as the U.S. military reported a
U.S. Marine killed the day before in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of
Baghdad. An Army soldier died Thursday in a traffic accident near Beiji, 155
miles north of Baghdad, the command said.
The deaths raised to at least 2,082 the number of U.S. service
members who have died since the war began in 2003, according to an
Associated Press count.
U.S. officials have refused to say how many detainees showed signs
of torture and whether most were Sunnis, pending completion of an Iraqi
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told reporters that American soldiers, led by
U.S. Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, went to the Jadriyah facility because a
15-year-old boy was believed to be held there illegally. Interior Ministry
officers denied the U.S. troops entry until Horst telephoned Jabr, who
ordered his staff to let the Americans in, Lynch said.
"When he entered the facility, Gen. Horst saw 169 individuals that
had been detained. Some of those individuals looked like they had been
abused, malnourished and mistreated," Lynch said. "Gen. Horst and his
soldiers took control of the facility, took appropriate actions with the
Iraqi leadership and the Iraqi government."
In a nationally televised press conference, Jabr, the interior
minister, delivered a spirited defense of his agency and said the detainees
included Shiites and Sunnis _ some among the most "dangerous terrorists" in
the country.