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Widespread attacks kill 14 in Iraq
Updated: 2006-02-16 21:07

Iraq's Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into claims that a police death squad has been operating in the country, a top official said Thursday. Attacks around the country killed 14 people, including six Iraqis in a car bombing and three sheiks in a drive-by shooting.

Iraqi woman walks past the wreckage following a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006. Attacks around the country killed 14 people, including six Iraqis in a car bombing and three sheiks in a drive-by shooting. [AP]

Iraq Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari also condemned the latest images of detainees abused in the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in 2003, but noted that those responsible had already been punished.

The investigation into the death squads was announced as police found the bodies of 10 more men who had been shot execution-style and dumped in three different areas of Baghdad's predominantly Shiite suburb of Shula.

Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, Iraq's deputy interior minister in charge of domestic intelligence, said the investigation followed U.S. military claims that soldiers had detained 22 Iraqi men wearing police uniforms who were about to kill a Sunni Arab man last month.

"We have been informed about this and the interior minister has formed an investigation committee to learn more about the Sunni person and those 22 men, particularly whether they work for the Interior Ministry or claim to belong to the ministry," Kamal told The Associated Press.

A U.S. general said American forces had found evidence of a death squad operating in Iraq's Interior Ministry, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site Wednesday evening. Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who commands the civilian police training teams in Iraq, said the men were employed by the Interior Ministry as highway patrol officers.

An American military official in Baghdad confirmed the report but declined to provide further details. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was unauthorized to speak to the media.

The bodies of Sunni Arabs, bound and gagged and shot in the head, have been turning up in Baghdad for months, fueling allegations of sectarian killings, which Sunni Arab leaders say are often carried out by Shiites in army or police uniforms.

Shiites have also been systematically massacred by Sunni extremists in Baghdad, Diyala province and mixed areas to the south of the capital.

Human Rights Minister Nermine Othman said she believed lower-level Interior Ministry officials were using criminals to kill Iraqis.

"I think there are many people inside the Interior Ministry involved with these deaths or giving the uniforms of colleagues to criminals," she said. "These officials are helping the criminals by informing them on where targeted people are going or where people are living. They are helping them in different ways."

A Sunni Arab political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, praised the investigation and said perpetrators should be brought to justice.

"Since a very long time, we have been talking about such violations and we have been telling the Interior Ministry officials that there are squads that raid houses and arrest people who are found later executed in different parts of the capital," said party member Nasser al-Ani.
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