U.S. forces raided the homes of two officials from a prominent Sunni Arab organization Thursday, arresting bodyguards and confiscating weapons, Sunni officials said.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, secretary-general of the Conference for Iraq’s People, said soldiers in tanks and Humvees, with two helicopters circling overhead, broke into his home in western Baghdad at 2:30 a.m., put him and his family in one room, and searched the house.
“It was as if they were attacking a castle, not the home of a normal person who advises Iraq’s interim government and has called for reconciliation and renounced sectarianism,” al-Dulaimi told a news conference after the raid.
The other raid took place at the Baghdad home of Harith al-Obeidi, another senior official in the organization, said Iraq’s largest Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party.
The U.S. military said it had conducted several raids in those areas Thursday, but could not immediately identify the homes or Iraqis involved.
Also on Thursday, 12 Iraqis were killed in a number of shootings and other attacks in the capital, raising to 94 the number of people who have died in violence in Iraq this week, including seven U.S. troops.
The Conference for Iraq’s People and the Iraqi Islamic Party are two leading political organizations representing Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, which has increasingly complained of abuse as U.S. and Iraqi forces pursue insurgents, the bulk of whom are Sunnis. The two groups are also campaigning to defeat a draft constitution in an Oct. 15 referendum.
Al-Dulaimi said the troops arrested four of his bodyguards and confiscated their licensed weapons. He said the Americans were acting on false tips that linked the men to the insurgency.
“This act of humiliation … derails our efforts to encourage Sunnis to take part in the political process,” said al-Dulaimi, urging Washington to stop such actions.
The two organizations are urging Sunnis to vote “no” on the constitution, which their leaders believe will divide Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni areas, with the Sunni region having the least power and revenue.
The Iraqi Islamic Party condemned the two raids as “a savage act” and an “unjustifiable aggression” saying such treatment of “good Iraqis” could set back efforts to persuade citizens to join efforts to improve security in the country.
Al-Dulaimi is a prominent critic of the Shiite-led government. On Aug. 30, at a joint news conference with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, he called for dismissing the country’s Shiite interior minister, accusing his security forces of massacring Sunnis. Al-Dulaimi warned that such killings “will only lead to troubles” at a time when U.S. officials are encouraging Sunnis to accept the draft constitution.
His call came several days after 36 Sunnis were found shot to death in a dry riverbed near the Iranian border after they were kidnapped in Baghdad.
In Washington on Wednesday, President Bush warned that violence will increase in Iraq in the days before the referendum.
“We can expect they’ll do everything in their power to try to stop the march of freedom,” Bush said of the insurgents. “And our troops are ready for it.”
In two attacks, gunmen opened fire on a Shiite bakery shop in the Dora neighborhood, killing three civilians, and on a minibus carrying government cleaners to work, killing two and wounding seven, police said. Elsewhere in the capital, two civilians and four police officers were killed in drive-by shootings, and a 12-year-old living in a homeless shelter died when a mortar exploded nearby, police said.
On Wednesday, in a suicide bombing in northwestern Iraq, a woman disguised in a man’s robes and headdress slipped into a line of army recruits and detonated explosives strapped to her body, killing at least six recruits and wounding 35. It was the first known suicide attack by a woman in Iraq’s insurgency.
The attack in Tal Afar appeared aimed at showing that militants could still strike in a town where U.S. and Iraqi offensives drove out insurgents only two weeks ago. A female suicide bomber may have been chosen because she could get through checkpoints — at which women are rarely searched — then don her disguise to join the line of men, Iraqi officials said.
Iraq’s most notorious insurgent group, al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement, saying it was carried out by a “blessed sister.” The bombing came a day after U.S. and Iraqi officials announced their forces killed the No. 2 leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abdullah Abu Azzam, in a weekend raid.