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Iraq holds top police official

Times Staff Writer

Iraqi soldiers arrested a high-ranking federal police official Thursday on suspicion of targeting Sunni Arabs in the capital for arrest and torture on behalf of radical Shiite militias, as well as for ransom.

The arrest underscored the country’s deep sectarian divisions and concerns over the degree to which extremist groups have infiltrated Iraqi institutions responsible for protecting the public.

Col. Thamir Mohammed Ismail Husseini, also known as Abu Turab, was the intelligence officer for the 2nd National Police Division Headquarters. He is accused of directing federal officers to detain Sunnis at checkpoints in west Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

Husseini allegedly ordered officers to abuse their captives into making false confessions and to hold them for ransom. He also had access to intelligence that he used against American and Iraqi forces, the military said in a statement.

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In July, U.S. officials alleged that Husseini was connected to the Mahdi Army militia, which is loyal to Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr. They also alleged that Husseini’s staff allowed Shiite detainees to go free more quickly while Sunni prisoners languished in crowded, unsanitary conditions.

Since May, 11 members of Iraqi security forces have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in illegal activities, the military said.

“The detention of Col. Thamir is a proactive measure aimed at eliminating the influence of illegal militias, sectarianism and criminal activities in the Iraqi security forces,” Maj. Scott Nelson said in the statement.

U.S. and Iraqi forces rarely release details about the detention and killing of Iraqis accused of having ties to extremist groups. The absence of public disclosure can make it difficult for an outsider to discern sectarian loyalties among security forces.

Also Thursday, the U.S. military said it had arrested an Iranian who allegedly was involved in transporting explosives used against U.S. and Iraqi security forces, as well as training terrorists on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The suspect, Aghawi Farhadi, was one of three men arrested before dawn at a hotel in Sulaymaniya, a largely Kurdish city in northern Iraq, witnesses said. About 20 U.S. troops arrived in civilian cars and entered the Sulaymaniya Palace hotel about 4:30 a.m., witnesses said.

The other two men were released, witnesses said. Farhadi was visiting as part of an Iranian trade delegation.

U.S. authorities would not release details of the arrest, or of the evidence allegedly linking Farhadi to armor-piercing bombs. U.S. officials say the munitions originate in Iran.

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In Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said at a news conference Thursday that car bombs and suicide attacks had fallen to their lowest level in a year. Average daily killings fell from 32 to about a dozen, he said, drawing on data first released last week.

Despite the drop, “I would say again that it’s not at the level we want it to be. There are still way too many civilian casualties inside of Baghdad and Iraq,” Odierno said.

In east Baghdad, militants shot the chief judge of a local criminal court, Mustafa Kadhim Jawad, and his driver. The two men were pronounced dead at Kindi Hospital.

At a checkpoint in northeast Baghdad, three Iraqi police officers and a bystander were killed by a car bomb. A tow truck driver left the car, saying he needed to fetch another vehicle. The car later exploded; seven people were injured.

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One Iraqi was killed when U.S. forces conducted a raid in northeast Baghdad’s Sadr City district; five people were injured. A bomb exploded near Shaab Stadium in Baghdad, killing a police officer and injuring four people. And a mortar attack late Thursday in the city’s south killed three people and injured 11. The morgue also reported that the bodies of seven men had been found in the capital.

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sam.enriquez@latimes.com

Times staff writers Wail Alhafith, Raheem Salman, Said Rifai, Saif Rasheed and Saif Hameed in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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