US troops arrest senior Iraqi officers

The United States’ military police on Saturday raided the new Iraqi police academy and detained 15 senior officers holding a secret meeting of the banned Baath party.

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    US police chief in Baghdad, Bernard Kerik, said 14 people were arrested for taking part in an illegal activity and one for resisting arrest.


    Those arrested included the dean of the academy, Major General Akram Abdul Razak, five brigadier generals, three colonels and a lieutenant colonel.


    The raid followed a tip-off to his office. It was greeted with celebration by some 100 to 150 ordinary policemen gathered outside, the police chief said. 


    Kerik blamed intimidation by Baath conspirators for the failure to uncover the underground sleeper cell sooner. This, despite the tough crackdown on the Baath party launched earlier this month.


    “There was a huge applause by police officers. I think they knew this was going on but were afraid to come forward," he said.




    Head of the US-led administration in Iraq, Paul Bremer, on Monday constituted the Iraq De-Baathification Council to implement his decision to bar former middle- and high-ranking Baathists from public service.


    The raid comes even as the US has accused Baath party groups of "orchestrating" attacks on occupying US forces in Iraq.


    In response, US troops have been carrying out intensive search operations, particularly against former Baath members. Quoting local people, Aljazeera correspondent reported that Iraqis were fed up with these operations.


    In the past week, there has been a sharp escalation in attacks against US forces in Iraq. Nine US soldiers died in Iraqi ambush attacks in various parts of the country during that period.


    In response, the US was planning to send in more troops to the country. Others, like the US army's 3rd infantry division which were planning to return home, are to stay back.


    The raid on the police academy and the subsequent arrests are perceived as a setback to Iraqi forces loyal to Saddam Hussein that were stepping up attacks on the occupying troops.


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