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Sunnis Complain Religious Leader Detained

June 24, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Sunni groups complained Saturday that one of their top religious leaders was detained by American troops in Tikrit for several hours, while the U.S. military said three soldiers from the same division were killed in separate incidents.

The deaths of the three soldiers from the Multi-National Division in Baghdad raised to 15 the number of U.S. servicemembers who were killed or were found dead this past week. One soldier was killed Saturday and the other two Friday.

A soldier was killed Saturday by a bomb during a foot patrol south of Baghdad. On Friday, one soldier was killed by a roadside bomb and the other in a ``non-combat incident″ that was being investigated.

U.S. forces have been increasingly visible in Baghdad recently as they fan out in support of tens of thousands of Iraqi troops trying to restore security in the capital.

Baghdad was relatively calm a day after clashes in the city center forced the prime minister to impose a curfew on the 6 million residents. Three armed members of the Mahdi army militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were killed while battling U.S. forces in eastern Baghdad, Dr. Muhannad Jwad of Yarmouk hospital said.

The influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars said Jamal al-Din Abdul Karim al-Dabban and his three sons were taken into custody at about 5 a.m. in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown. The Iraqi Islamic party, the country’s largest Sunni political group, also condemned the arrest.

The cleric, who is a mufti _ or religious authority _ for Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, and his sons were released about seven hours later after protests, Tikrit Gov. Hamad Humoud al-Qaisi said.

The U.S. military said it was investigating the incident.

A funeral procession was held in the Shiite slum of Sadr City for two men killed Friday while marching with other Shiites to the Buratha mosque on the other side of the city to protest last week’s suicide attack on the revered shrine.

The clashes apparently erupted when some insurgents fired at al-Sadr’s followers, then attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces as they headed to the site, an Interior Ministry official said.

The fierce fighting came despite a crackdown launched 10 days ago by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that put tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on the capital’s streets in an effort to restore a modicum of safety. The prime minister then slapped a curfew on the capital with only two hours notice, drawing complaints from many Iraqis.

``The sudden decision to impose the curfew caused troubles for the citizens,″ said engineer Khalid Abdel-Rahman, 45. ``The people were informed about the new time of the curfew with very short notice and many people were trapped in the streets or their shops.″

The Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said three worshippers participating in the march were injured and members of al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi army, returned fire.

U.S. and Iraqi forces headed to the site to help control the melee, but they were attacked by Sunni insurgents on nearby Haifa Street and fierce fighting ensued in the alleys and doorways of the thoroughfare,the official said.

There were conflicting reports about how many people were killed or injured.

The Interior Ministry official said a member of the Mahdi army was killed and three were wounded in the initial fighting, five Iraqi soldiers and three police died during the clashes on Haifa Street and eight suspected insurgents were arrested.

But Ibrahim al-Jabri, an official in al-Sadr’s office in eastern Baghdad, said six worshippers were killed and 10 wounded when the insurgents attacked the protest.

Police Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq said Friday that four Iraqi soldiers and three policemen were wounded before the area was sealed and searched house-to-house.

Osama Ahmed, 50, who works for the ministry of higher education, said he was annoyed that the curfew kept him from doing errands on Friday, the start of the Islamic weekend.

``I expected an ordinary Friday that in which I can shop and visit some friends, but instead I found my self kept in my house,″ he said. ``What happened yesterday shows that the country is at an impasse.″

Defense Ministry official Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohamed Jassim initially said all Baghdad residents must be off the streets from 2 p.m. until 6 a.m. Saturday, but al-Maliki later declared the ban would end after three hours.

Jassim also said the city was under a state of emergency that included a renewed prohibition on carrying weapons and gave Iraqi security forces broader arrest powers to prevent civilian casualties. He did not give a timeframe for those measures, and the prime minister’s office said Saturday that no state of emergency was in place.

On the political front, the prime minister’s office confirmed that the government will present a 28-point national reconciliation plan to parliament Sunday that would grant some insurgents amnesty and ask for approval of a series of steps for Iraqis to take over security from U.S. troops.

Deputy parliamentary speaker Khalid al-Atiyah said government representatives and lawmakers were meeting on the plan.

In other violence Saturday, according to police:

_ A roadside bomb struck a police patrol near the al-Sadiq University for Islamic Studies in a predominantly Shiite area in northern Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding three others.

_ Police found an unidentified body of a man who had been handcuffed, bound by the legs and shot to death in the capital.

_ A roadside bomb aimed at a patrol of police commandos missed its target but killed a civilian and wounded four others in western Baghdad, police said.

_ In the northern city of Kirkuk, a roadside bomb killed the local chief of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Mussa Hatam, along with two of his guards.


Associated Press reporters Sinan Salaheddin, Qais al-Bashir and Kim Gamel contributed to this report.

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