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Iraqi police major held for death squad role

Written by: Staff
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BAGHDAD, Mar 26 (Reuters) Iraqi authorities today arrested a police major accused of taking part in death squads, Interior Ministry officials said.

They said Arkan al-Bawi, who works in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, was detained after visiting the Interior Ministry.

Sunni Arabs accuse the Shi'ite-led government of sanctioning death squads, a charge the government denies.

Bawi, whose brother is the chief of police in Diyala, was accused of operating in death squads in Baquba, 65 km north of Baghdad.

Death squads are a taboo subject with the Iraqi government despite mounting evidence that they operate with impunity in a ''dirty war''.

Hundreds of bodies have been found since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine last month touched off reprisals and pushed Iraq to the brink of sectarian civil war. Most of the corpses had bullet holes, were gagged and showed signs of torture.

Death squads have become more active as Sunni Arabs press on with a violent campaign of bombings and shootings that has killed thousands of people, mostly Shi'ites.

REUTERS DKS BS1805

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