Iraqi Interior Minister denies running Shia death squads

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The Independent Online

A 150,000-strong private security force, raised and trained by the US, is linked to the murderous death squads stalking Iraq, the country's Interior Minister claimed yesterday.

Bayan Jabr denied that it was his own ministry which has been responsible for abductions, torture and murders of thousands of people.

Instead Mr Jabr, a former Shia militia member who is widely blamed by the country's Sunni community for allegedly masterminding sectarian attacks, declared that the Facility Protection Service (FPS), set up by the Americans to guard official buildings, was responsible.

He also claimed that elements among the 30,000 private security guards operating in Iraq were complicit in the killings.

"There are some forces out of order, not under our control, not under the control of the ministry", Mr Jabr said in an interview with the BBC.

"Many of them are uniformed like the police, their cars are like the police. Terrorists or someone who supports the terrorists are using the clothes of the police and the military."

The activities of the death squads have sown a particularly deep terror even amid the unremitting violence of Iraq. Every day bodies of victims are found dumped on roadsides, often with marks of prolonged torture.

Many are victims of sectarian targeting. Just last month 1,300 bodies were discovered after the golden dome of a venerated Shia shrine was blown up in the city of Samarra.

The FPS was organised by the US following the invasion to carry out security duties. Many of the recruits were former members of the Iraqi army and American officials were accused of ignoring screening procedures in an attempt to make up numbers.

Meanwhile bitter rivalry between two Shia factions continued to stall the formation of a new Iraqi government four months after national elections.

Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and his Dawa Party are opposed by Sciri, headed by cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, with its armed wing the Badr Brigade.

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