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Iraqi general, aides arrested in corruption probe

Written by: Staff
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BAGHDAD, Nov 22 (Reuters) An Iraqi general responsible for a Shi'ite district of Baghdad has been arrested along with three senior officers in a corruption probe, Iraq's deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie said today.

Washington has focused its efforts on training and establishing an independent and capable Iraqi security force so that US troops can start to withdraw -- a goal undermined by accusations of corruption and sectarian partisanship.

Major General Abdul Jalil Khalaf Shuweil had been in charge of army troops in Kadhimiya, a northwestern suburb of Baghdad that is the site of one of the four holiest shrines in Iraq.

''The American forces arrested him yesterday together with his three assistants on accusations of corruption,'' Zobaie told Reuters.

A US military spokesman could not confirm the arrest and the Defence Ministry said it had no information on the report.

A United Nations report today said militias were increasingly operating death squads and other illegal activity with the collusion or support of Iraqi security forces.

Asked whether Shuweil's arrest was linked to such charges, Zobaie, a member of the main Sunni bloc in parliament, said he could not comment until the investigation was complete.

The UN report said at least 3,000 members of the Ministry of Interior, which controls the police, had been removed from their posts on allegations of human rights abuses and corruption.

Zobaie said the army, too, was under investigation.

''We have heaps of reports talking about links between death squads and high-ranking officers working with the army, and there are many investigations,'' Zobaie said.

US commanders in Iraq say privately they are concerned the Iraqi forces, on which U.S. plans for withdrawal are based, are prone to splitting along sectarian lines and that the Shi'ite-led government is promoting Shi'ite commanders.

Earlier this month, the Defence Ministry rejected charges by US military commanders that a senior general in the volatile Diyala province was targeting Sunni leaders and turning a blind eye to Shi'ite death squads.

REUTERS LL VC1953

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