Sectarian killings surge


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A recent surge in killings with sectarian overtones has left at least two dozen Iraqis dead in recent days, aggravating the country's Sunni Arab minority as negotiations to draw them into a future government continue. A prominent Sunni politician accused the government yesterday of pushing Iraq toward "civil war."

Yesterday, authorities identified two sets of corpses as young Sunni Arabs dumped in separate locations in a poor neighborhood of northwestern Baghdad.

All bore signs of torture and were recently detained by Iraqi security forces, according to Sunni Arab political and religious leaders.

"They are raiding homes and mosques and making random arrests," said Harith al-Obeidi, a leader of a Sunni group that is part of negotiations to form a government. "The people are in government cars and wearing the government uniforms. They arrest people and beat them during the raids, and after two days we find them killed on the road or at the morgue."

Sunni political officials allege that at least 1,600 Sunni Arabs have vanished in such raids since May.

"To date, the results of the investigations did not come out," said a statement issued last week by the Iraqi Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab political coalition now in talks to join the government.

Sunni Arab leaders have been pressuring Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders to remove current Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who has been accused of having close ties to a Shiite militia.

According to Sunni political leaders, the two most recent sets of corpses were identified as those of men arrested in raids in Baghdad on Monday and near Taji, north of the capital, on Thursday.

In both instances, Sunni Arab political leaders said, the victims were detained after raids at mosques. Iraqi government authorities said they were investigating both incidents.

In the incident near Taji, uniformed men burst into a mosque and arrested nine worshipers, said witnesses, Sunni party officials and a police officer in the area.

Police Lt. Adnan Agadi said all nine detained were members of the Dulaymi tribe, a large, mostly Sunni Arab clan believed to have ties to the insurgency.

Iraqi political leaders said their bodies later were found in a dump in the Shulla district of Baghdad.

Fourteen bodies were discovered Friday in the same vicinity. The Muslim Scholars Association, a hard-line Sunni Arab clerical group, said the bodies were those of 14 men arrested during a raid in the Sabi al-Bor area west of Baghdad. All were shot in the head.

Sunni Arab leaders staged several protests yesterday to condemn the killings.

The bodies were taken to a morgue to be collected by their families, the Association of Muslim Scholars said in a statement. The bodies of a father and son were taken to the headquarters of another Sunni political group, the National Dialogue Council, and displayed to reporters.

Council head Khalaf al-Ilyan accused Shiite-led Interior Ministry forces of raiding the mosque, arresting a group of worshipers and killing them.

"The government is pushing hard toward a civil war," al-Ilyan told reporters. "These actions are conducted by government, which cannot protect their people."

Borzou Daragahi writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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