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59 Suspected Militants Arrested in Baghdad, Basra

February 04, 2006|From Associated Press

BAGHDAD — Iraqi police and soldiers rounded up 59 people Friday in crackdowns in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.

At least 22 people were detained and weapons were seized in raids before dawn Friday in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, the Iraqi army said.

An additional 37 people, including five Palestinians and a Syrian, were arrested in Baghdad's Dora district, the Interior Ministry said. The neighborhood is mostly Sunni Arab and has seen frequent bombings, ambushes and assassinations.

Sunni Arab politicians have complained that raids by the Interior Ministry, headed by a Shiite, have inflamed sectarian tensions even as politicians negotiate to form a new government that will include all communities and, it is hoped, calm the Sunni-led insurgency. Shiite officials counter that Sunni militants have killed many police officers and soldiers.

Also Friday, officials in Germany appealed to the kidnappers of two German engineers to free them or make contact to begin negotiations.

In a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the kidnappers to release Thomas Nitzschke and Rene Braeunlich. They were seized Jan. 24 in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.

At least five foreigners were kidnapped last month in Iraq: the Germans, two Kenyan engineers and American freelance journalist Jill Carroll, who was working for the Christian Science Monitor.

Carroll's kidnappers have threatened to kill her unless all female Iraqi detainees are freed. The U.S. military released five women Jan. 26 but said the move was unrelated to the demand.

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