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Iraqi, US Forces Order Sunni Volunteers to Disarm


Iraqi and U.S. troops are ordering Sunni Muslim security volunteers in a Baghdad district to turn in their weapons, after the arrest of their local leader sparked deadly gun battles.

The troops used loudspeakers Sunday to order members of the local "Awakening Council" to stop fighting, or be arrested. Despite the warning, sporadic shooting continued in Baghdad's Fadhil district.

The clashes broke out Saturday after police arrested Adil al-Mashhadani the group's district leader and one of his aides on terrorism charges.

At least two bystanders and a policeman were killed, and 15 other people were wounded. Local officials say five Iraqi soldiers were missing after Saturday's fighting.

The Awakening Councils, also known as Sons of Iraq, are made up of former Sunni insurgents who are now helping U.S. and Iraqi troops fight al-Qaida in Iraq.

The U.S.-backed groups have been credited with drastically reducing violence in Iraq, but deep mistrust remains between the Sunni fighters and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government.

The Iraqi government last year assumed responsibility from the U.S. military for paying the more than 90,000 security volunteers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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