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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    At least 6 dead in Iraqi counterterrorism unit’s battle with gunmen

    BAGHDAD — An Iraqi counterterrorism force backed by U.S. soldiers battled gunmen early Wednesday during a raid in a western Iraq village that left at least six people dead. No Americans were among the casualties.

    The predawn shootout highlighted the re-emerging tensions between the central government in Baghdad and residents in western Anbar province, the former bastion of the Sunni insurgency.

    The raid began with an elite Iraqi unit surrounding a street in Jubail, just outside Fallujah, Iraqi police and the U.S. military said. According to the Americans, the Iraqis were looking to arrest an insurgent leader from al-Qaida in Iraq when gunfire erupted from several directions.

    The sides exchanged fire; four people were killed inside the house, while two others appeared on the street with guns and were shot dead, a U.S. military spokesman said.

    One Iraqi police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publically, said members of the elite unit had rebuffed a police offer to conduct the raid instead of them. He said the men inside the house had waved guns before the special forces opened fire. One tribal sheik confirmed there had been an exchange of fire, but charged that the Iraqi unit should have acted with more restraint.

    The police put the number of dead at seven and said tensions were high in Fallujah on Wednesday, reflecting residents’ resentment over such actions by the central government’s forces. Anbar Gov. Qassem Mohammed demanded an explanation for why he had not been informed of the raid.

    Tribal sheiks argued that raids by elite forces sent from Baghdad created only greater problems.

    “”Areas like Fallujah are well-equipped with army and police who can trace anyone breaking the law and avoid these kinds of ramifications,”” said Sheik Lawrence Abid Ibrahim Harden, a Sunni tribal leader in the region.

    Anbar province has suffered a host of security problems lately. Police officers’ houses are bombed regularly and security officials have described both al-Qaida in Iraq and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party as gaining strength after suffering setbacks in the last three years.

    In an interview this month, Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Obeidi described al-Qaida in Iraq as having infiltrated the police and army in the province.

    The raid appeared to be an example of new cooperation heralded by the Americans with the end of formal combat operations at the end of August. The U.S. military has kept just under 50,000 troops in Iraq to support and train Iraqi forces. American special forces have been given responsibility for supporting Iraq’s counterterrorism units.

    The Iraqi special forces have been lauded by U.S. military officials as a success story due to the units’ extensive training and collaboration with their American counterparts. However, some Iraqis charge that the forces are too closely tied to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office and that they carry out politically motivated arrests.

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