Iraqi’s arrest triggers outrage

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Shiite politicians demanded changes in the Iraqi government Sunday, accusing a Sunni Arab party in the coalition of ties to terrorism after a bodyguard of its leader was arrested on suspicion of planning bomb attacks.

At least 23 people were killed in violence Sunday, and 21 bodies were found in Baghdad or to the south, many of them bound and tortured. In the evening, gunmen burst into a frozen food factory in Baghdad, kidnapping 24 workers and wounding two others, similar to past attacks in which militants have picked out members of the opposing sect from among the captives and killed them.

Iraqi troops backed by American military advisers arrested a suspected Shiite militiaman believed to have carried out kidnappings and killings. A gun battle broke out at the suspect’s house in Baghdad’s Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, leaving a woman and a young girl dead, Iraqi police said.

Afterward, angry men at the scene held up a color photo of a smiling, winking Jesus giving a “thumbs up” sign that they said was left by troops at the raided house, an allegation denied by U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The photo, known as the “Buddy Christ,” is from the movie “Dogma,” a 1999 religious satire in which “Buddy Christ” is part of a church campaign to improve Jesus’ image.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said the photo was a “rather ridiculous attempt” to discredit the raid. It was unclear how it ended up at the site.

The potential Iraqi government crisis erupted after U.S. troops on Friday arrested a bodyguard of Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi, saying the man was suspected of leading an al-Qaida-linked cell that was “in the final stages” of carrying out a string of bombings in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, the center of government and home to the U.S. and British embassies.

Al-Dulaimi heads the Iraqi Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab party with 44 seats in the 275-member parliament and positions in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, sought to contain the political fallout, saying in a joint statement that “the arrested individual had no ties to al-Dulaimi’s family, nor is al-Dulaimi connected in any way to the suspect activities of the individual.”

But Baha el-Deen al-Araji, a lawmaker from the party of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, demanded a “significant cabinet reshuffle” to change “ministries of security and public services dossiers.”

“All our Sunni brothers have terrorist groups. This is destructive to the reconciliation process,” said a fellow lawmaker, Nasser al-Saadi. “We must stand up to them.”

He said that if al-Dulaimi is shown to have links to al-Qaida, “he should be treated as a terrorist.” The lawmakers said parliament would discuss the arrest in a session today.

The latest identifications reported by the U.S. military of personnel recently killed in Iraq:

Army Staff Sgt. Edward C. Reynolds, Jr., 27, Groves, Texas, and Army Pfc. Henry Paul, 24, Kolonia Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia; killed Tuesday in Baghdad when their vehicle rolled over; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Marine Lance Cpl. James Chamroeun, 20, Union City, Ga.; died Thursday in Anbar province of wounds suffered in combat; assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Army Pfc. Christopher T. Blaney, 19, Winter Park, Fla., died Friday in Taji in a non-combat-related incident; assigned to the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

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