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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunni Proponent of Reconciliation Is Killed

From The New York Times:
A Sunni Arab leader of a citizen patrol group in Baghdad who had been a proponent of reconciliation in his neighborhood was assassinated over the weekend. The killing of the leader, Fouad Ali Hussein al-Douri, a Sunni mosque imam who directed a group of about 65 guards in the Jihad neighborhood in western Baghdad, is the latest in a string of attacks on members of the so-called Awakening Councils. Relations between the Awakening Councils and the Shiite-led government have become increasingly strained.

Administration of the Awakening program, which is made up of almost 100,000 mostly Sunni men countrywide on the American military payroll, is expected to be handed over to the government starting Oct. 1.

About 54,000 Awakening patrol members in Baghdad will start reporting to the government that day. There are serious concerns that many might be arrested for previous links to the insurgency or denied long-promised jobs in the army and the police.

The Awakening members, whose ranks include many former Sunni insurgents, backed by the Americans to fight militants, are often cited as a crucial factor in the improvement of security in Iraq. But they have long been viewed with deep suspicion by many Shiites in the government...

It was unclear who was responsible for Mr. Douri’s death. Relatives and friends blamed the government. “The Awakenings are being targeted by the government, Iran and Al Qaeda elements linked to Iran and other neighboring countries,” said Nusayef Jassim Muhammad, Mr. Douri’s cousin and neighbor.

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