Residents inspect a bullet-riddled car outside the house of
Ahmed al-Alwani following the raid. REUTERS/Ali
Iraqi security forces arrested a prominent Sunni Muslim
lawmaker and supporter of anti-government protests in a raid on
his home in the western province of Anbar, sparking clashes in
which at least five people were killed, police sources said.
The violent arrest of Ahmed al-Alwani is likely to inflame
tensions in Sunni-dominated Anbar, where protesters have been
demonstrating against what they see as marginalisation of
their sect by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led
Alwani belongs to the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc and has been
a strong critic of Maliki and an influential figure in the
Police sources said a two-hour firefight broke out on
Saturday when bodyguards and members of Alwani's tribe
resisted police and soldiers who went to arrest Alwani on
charges of "terrorism" from his house in the centre of the
city of Ramadi.
They said those killed in the fighting included three of
Alwani's bodyguards, his sister and his brother.
"Army troops with police special forces were trying to arrest
Alwani from his house, but fierce fighting erupted. Five
bodies, including one woman, were taken to Falluja hospital,"
one police source said.
No members of Alwani's family could immediately be reached to
give their version of events. Parliament speaker Usama
al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, called the operation a "blatant
violation" of Iraq's constitution and a "dangerous
Lieutenant-General Ali Ghaidan, commander of Iraqi ground
forces, told state television that security forces had also
tried to arrest Alwani's brother Ali, whom he accused of
involvement in attacks that killed Iraqi soldiers in Anbar.
Ali was killed in the fighting, as well as one Iraqi soldier,
"We treated Ahmed al-Alwani well. We told him that we had a
warrant for his arrest, and arrested him," he said, adding
that two of Alwani's bodyguards were wounded in the
operation, which he said was carried out in accordance with
Violence in Iraq is at its worst levels since 2006-7, when
tens of thousands of people were killed in fighting between
Sunnis and Shi'ites. Bombings, shootings and suicide attacks,
many staged by al Qaeda militants, are a near-daily
The Iraqi army this week launched a major operation in desert
areas of Anbar, a province that makes up a third of Iraq's
territory and is populated mainly by Sunnis, to flush out al
Qaeda-linked militants who have gained a foothold there.
Another potential flashpoint is around Sunni protests that
have been held in Anbar since December last year. In a
statement on state television on Friday, Maliki said it would
be the "last Friday" the protests and sit-ins would be
allowed to continue.
The military campaign and the arrest of Alwani may help
Maliki boost his popularity in the eyes of Shi'ites who had
called on him to crack down on al Qaeda and on politicians
they accused of encouraging violence. Elections are due in
Many Sunnis in the region are meanwhile likely to see
Alwani's arrest as another example of what they portray as a
crackdown against minority Sunni leaders.
A photo of the arrested lawmaker posted on Maliki's Facebook
page purportedly showed Alwani after the arrest with a white
bandage wrapped around his abdomen.
Authorities imposed a curfew in Anbar province after the
arrest, security sources said. A convoy of army tanks,
armoured vehicles and Humvees began to arrive in Ramadi by
But scores of people took to the streets carrying guns to
defy the curfew, a Reuters witness said.
Adnan al-Muhanna, leader of the al-Bu Alwan tribe, a major
Sunni tribe in Anbar to which Alwani belongs, called on the
government to release Alwani within 12 hours.
"Otherwise we will not be able to restrain the angry masses
and that could lead to undesired consequences," he told
Anbar's provincial council held an urgent session and called
for Alwani's release and an investigation into the death of
his brother, a copy of a statement seen by Reuters said.
The statement also called on all parties to exercise
restraint and urged parliament to intervene and defuse