On October 21, Iraqi soldiers raided the house of Mullah Shihab al-Safe, the leader of a Sons of Iraq (SOI) unit in Buhrez, south of Diyala’s provincial capital Baquba. Al-Safe wasn’t home at the time, but his brother and father were. They were arrested, but eventually released. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the raid was conducted because there were charges of terrorism and murder against the SOI head. Al-Safe told Reuters that Iraqi forces also went to the house of the Diyala provincial spokesman for the SOI. He was arrested, and according to al-Safe, beaten as well.
As reported earlier, Baghdad has been going after the SOI in Diyala since at least May 2008. The government has issued arrest warrants, shut down their offices, rounded up over 100 fighters and leaders, and the provincial security chief who was an SOI supporter was dragged away by a counterterrorism unit in a controversial raid on the provincial government headquarters in Baquba.
Prime Minister Maliki views the SOI as an American-controlled force that has no allegiance to Baghdad. That is the reason why he has acted to weaken and disrupt the SOI in Diyala and other provinces. At the same time, the government accepted control of 54,000 SOI in Baghdad this month. That gives Maliki a carrot, their paycheck, and a stick, jail, to use against much of the SOI program. Most will probably be run off by threats, intimidation, and warrants, with the rest eventually given low level jobs in the security forces or left to be unemployed.
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