February 10, 2008 in Nation/World

Sunni walkout threatens Diyala security

Garrett Therolf Los Angeles Times
 

BAGHDAD – A potential security crisis loomed in troubled Diyala province Saturday as significant numbers of a U.S.-funded force of Sunni fighters left their posts, demanding the ouster of the provincial police chief.

“You can imagine what danger will face the region in the next days,” said Abu Talib, the commander of 2,000 to 3,000 so-called Sons of Iraq. His fighters, many of them former insurgents, turned against al-Qaida in Iraq last year under the Sunni Awakening banner.

A street commander, Khalid Khalidi, said nearly half of the checkpoint guards and patrolmen have walked off the job, and Talib said they might pull out in even larger numbers if provincial police chief Maj. Gen. Ghanim Quraishi is not ousted. Talib and his men, who are paid by the U.S. military, accuse the Shiite police chief of brutality against Sunnis.

Their ire boiled over, they said, after the rape, kidnapping and murder of two Sunni women two weeks ago, allegedly by men wearing police uniforms. Aides to the police chief said he was unavailable for comment.

For much of the past year, Diyala has been the deadliest region for U.S. forces battling the militants who have found refuge there. The province is a strategic crossroads, providing access to Baghdad, Iran and insurgent strongholds in northern Iraq.

U.S. military officials, who have said they do not have the troop strength to improve security in the province without the Sons of Iraq, said they were hoping for a speedy resolution.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus