Thursday, October 26, 2006

Iraqi death squad leader escapes U.S. raid - PM

BAGHDAD, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Iraq's most notorious death squad leader escaped a major U.S.-led raid on a Shi'ite Muslim militia stronghold in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday.

In an interview with Reuters, Maliki said Wednesday's ground and air assault on the sprawling Sadr City slum targeted Abu Deraa, a feared warlord held responsible for a rash of brutal sectarian killings and kidnappings of Iraqi Sunnis.

The operation, carried out by Iraqi special forces with U.S. advisers and air support, killed 10 people, according to a U.S. military statement.

Maliki said the raid had his backing but argued that it was conducted in a heavy handed way that could wreck a political deal he had worked on with Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical anti-American cleric who controls the Mehdi Army Shi'ite militia.

"I said we agree on arresting wanted criminals and we do not care whether they are Sunnis or Shi'ites, but that was not an arrest operation," said Maliki, who is himself a Shi'ite.
"Do you send in planes to arrest one person?" he asked.

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