A Sunni paramilitary leader and budding politician who had been trying to avoid arrest on murder charges since the summer has been jailed by Iraqi security forces, authorities said Monday.
Brig. Gen. Mustafa Kamal Shibeeb was taken into custody last week in connection with the deaths of five known members of the group Al Qaeda in Iraq who were killed in 2007 in Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, where Shibeeb commanded paramilitary fighters better known as the Awakening.
Shibeeb’s forces played a key role that year in defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq in Dora and the Baghdad suburb of Arab Jabour, from which militants had launched dozens of car bombings and suicide attacks in the capital.
On Thursday, an elite unit from the Interior Ministry detained Shibeeb without the knowledge of the U.S. military or Iraqi army units in the area that had previously prevented his arrest.
The U.S. military had counseled Shibeeb to hire a lawyer and contest the murder case in court and had worked to keep him out of jail.
They worried that if Shibeeb was arrested or fled the country, Al Qaeda in Iraq might exploit the vacuum.
U.S. support notwithstanding, Shibeeb has blamed the military for failing to protect leaders of the Awakening movement from prosecution in Iraqi courts, despite the group’s role in helping reestablish order in the country.
U.S. officials point to the pledges of the Iraqi government to incorporate Awakening fighters into the state security forces and other jobs, but Shibeeb and others have taken little comfort in those promises. Instead, they have seen the continuing incarceration of their fellow Awakening leaders. Many in the movement who left the insurgency to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq had believed that they would be granted immunity.
In interviews with The Times, Shibeeb had proclaimed his innocence and vowed to fight the murder charges in court. Meanwhile, he had pushed forward with plans to run for parliament.
Sunni lawmaker Omar Abdul Sattar and other legislators condemned Shibeeb’s arrest.
“I believe this action and the targeting of the Awakening leaders will have a very negative effect on the political and the security situation in Iraq,” Abdul Sattar said.
Ahmed is a staff writer in The Times’ Baghdad Bureau. Times staff writer Mohammed Arrawi contributed to this report.