Iraq detains Sunnis in Baghdad to pre-empt activation of Islamic State ‘sleeper cells’

Sunni Muslims gather during an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district in 2013

Residents in Adhamiyah, one of just a handful of Sunni enclaves remaining in Baghdad after the sectarian conflict in 2005, told the Telegraph that government forces have been conducting mass – and at times random – arrests of residents.

During the allied invasion in 2003, Adhamiyah was a hotbed of anti-American sentiment, with al-Qaeda cells allowed to hide out in the area.

In Mr Maliki’s latest attempt to ward off an offensive by Islamic State, formaly the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Isis), in the capital, security forces have been pre-emptively detaining young men who have ties with, or relatives living in Anbar and other northern Iraqi provinces now under Islamic State’s control.

The government said on Thursday that it is rounding up members of Islamic State’s “sleeper cells” to help safeguard the capital, and Shi’ite paramilitary groups say they are helping the authorities.

A high-level Iraqi security official estimated to Reuters that there were 1,500 sleeper cell members hibernating in western Baghdad and a further 1,000 in areas on the outskirts of the capital.

“There are so many sleeper cells in Baghdad,” the official said. “They will seize an area and won’t let anyone take it back… In western Baghdad, they are ready and prepared.”

But residents of Adhamiyah, in western Baghdad, accused the Iraqi government of using sectarian Shia militias to conduct brutal, sweeping and often random arrests of young Sunni men…

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