Monday, May 4, 2009

BAGHDAD (AP) — A Sunni militia leader who took up arms against insurgents faces charges linked to bloodshed before joining the U.S.-led battle - setting up another potential showdown over how to sort out the messy histories for thousands of tribal fighters who went from enemies to allies.

The question took on a sharper edge Sunday as some Sunni leaders denounced the arrests of the Sunni militia chief and his two brothers as a sign that the Shi’ite-led government may be more interested in settling scores than in finding reconciliation.

A similar dispute in March touched off two days of deadly clashes in Baghdad that required U.S. intervention.

“This arrest is a plot to undermine our strength,” said Sheik Mustafa Kamil al-Jubouri, a leader in southern Baghdad for the so-called Awakening Councils, which turned against al Qaeda and other insurgents in recent years in one of the pivotal alliances of the war.

Mohammed Khalil Ibrahim, a top deputy for the arrested Awakening Council leader, threatened to disband the group in the area north of Baghdad that it controls north of Baghdad unless the leader was freed by early Monday.

The accusations against the three arrested Saturday north of Baghdad - Mullah Nadhum al-Jubouri and his two brothers - are sweeping.

Mr. al-Jubouri is suspected of links to killings of “prominent figures” around his base in Dujail, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, said Ahmed Abdul-Karim, deputy governor of Salahuddin province.

Other Iraqi officials said the charges also include carrying out attacks in 2005 and 2006 such as the downing a U.S. helicopter and targeting a police station near Duluiyah, about 45 miles north of Baghdad.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the details of the case.

A U.S. military statement did not mention specific allegations against the three but said they were wanted for “terrorism.”

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