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Sunni Lawmakers Walk Out of Iraqi Parliament

Iraq's political process was thrown into new turmoil on Saturday when the main Sunni bloc walked out of parliament to protest a crackdown on its leader. The latest political upheaval came as suspected Al-Qaida militants killed at least 12 people in a raid on a Shi'ite village. VOA's Deborah Block has more from the northern Iraqi city of Irbil.

Iraq's main Sunni bloc walked out of a parliamentary session Saturday to protest what it calls the house arrest of its leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi. Supporters say Dulaimi told them he is confined to his home.

On Friday, Iraqi security forces arrested Dulaimi's bodyguards, as well as his son, after two cars filled with explosives were found near the politician's office in Baghdad.

Kassam Atta, a spokesman for the Iraqi government's Baghdad security plan, says security forces captured 36 bodyguards and Dulaimi's son, and an investigation is underway.

Lawmakers from the bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, say they will return to parliament when Dulaimi is allowed to come back. They say security forces are preventing Dulaimi from leaving home. But Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denies the accusation.

He says Dulaimi is not under house arrest, and security forces have been sent to protect him. He says Dulaimi is a good parliament member, but he also said any proceedings against him would be carried out under provisions of the constitution.

Dulaimi is a strong critic of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite. His Iraqi Accordance Front has 44 lawmakers in the 275-member parliament.

The U.S. has been urging the Shi'ite-led government to make progress toward political reconciliation. The Bush administration has expressed frustration at the lack of progress so far.

Meanwhile, Iraqi police say at least 12 people were killed when suspected al-Qaida militants raided a Shi'ite village north of Baghdad.

Authorities say women and children were among those killed in the attack on Dwelah, in volatile Diyala province. The militants burned down several homes and wounded at least 10 other villagers.

The attack coincided with the release of a new Iraqi government report showing the number of civilians killed in November fell to its lowest level since early 2006.