US set to form paramilitary force in Iraq as scores of people arrested in massive raid near Kirkuk
The Bush administration has decided to form a paramilitary force to hunt for Iraqi resistance fighters, reports said on Wednesday, as US forces launched a major operation aimed at capturing key figures of the ousted regime.
In Baghdad, the US-installed Governing Council met Paul Bremer for its first talks with the US overseer since top Shiite leaders demanded modification of an American draft plan for handing power over to Iraqis.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the United States is to create a paramilitary force in Iraq formed by militiamen from the country’s five largest political parties.
The new battalion would consist of 750 to 850 fighters who would work with US Special Forces soldiers, respond to a central command and initially operate around Baghdad, Iraqi and US officials told the daily.
The decision to create the battalion is considered by Iraqi party leaders as an acknowledgment by US occupation authorities that the current security set up, based on Iraqi police officers and civil defense forces, is insufficient, the Post said.
Meanwhile, a massive U.S. raid in a northern Iraq village led to the arrests of 34 people and the confiscation of dozens of guns, the American military said Wednesday. Residents accused soldiers of excessive force.
Initial reports said the troops were hunting for Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the former deputy of Saddam Hussein.
Although U.S. forces have been searching for al-Duri, "we did not come here specifically searching for him," Lt. Col. William Schafer said, according to The AP. US troops on Tuesday detained the secretary of al-Duri.
"This raid has been planned for a while," Schafer said in Kirkuk. "We came with a list of names of people who have attacked coalition forces."
Many villagers complained the Americans had fired randomly at people.
South of Kirkuk, resistance ambushed a convoy of civilian contractors near Samarra, the US military said. Two of the occupants were slightly injured when a roadside bomb went off near their vehicle. (Albawaba.com)