615 detained in anti-Baathist sweep: Iraqi PM
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Last Updated: Sunday, October 30, 2011, 10:03
Baghdad: Iraq's Prime Minister on Sunday said that 615 people have been detained in a security sweep targeting members of the former ruling Baath party.

Arrests on this scale are likely to alarm Sunni Arabs, who consider use of the term "Baathists" by Iraq's Shiite-dominated government to be a coded way to refer to Sunni politicians, army officers, and other prominent members of their community.

Sunnis say that Baghdad sometimes uses crackdowns on Baathists as a tool to exert political pressure. The arrests coincide with a recent autonomy push by a mostly-Sunni province in north-central Iraq, the latest bone of contention between Sunni political blocs and the Baghdad government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki revealed the size of the sweep in comments released Saturday by the state-run Iraqiya TV channel during which he defended the detentions.

He said officials had reason to believe the people arrested were a threat to security but he gave no further details.

He did not say when the sweep took place, but a Ministry of Interior statement on Thursday said about 500 people had been arrested in recent days.

"The recent arrests, which were carried out by the security forces and were based on information and evidence, were aimed at those who threaten the state security and the state stability. There were 615 detained people," al-Maliki said.

"The Baath Party is prohibited by the Constitution, because it is a criminal party that led to the fall of the national sovereignty and it targeted the Iraqi people through the mass graves, chemical weapons," he said.


First Published: Sunday, October 30, 2011, 10:03

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