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Iraqi Shi'ites Denounce US Detention of Politician's Son


Iraqi police say a truck bomb killed 37 people and wounded more than 60 outside a Sunni mosque Satuday in restive Anbar province. Three bomb blasts in Baghdad killed at least five people and wounded 20 others. Eight Iraqi policemen were killed when insurgents stormed their checkpoint near Baghdad airport. The attacks came as Iraqi officials reported progress in the new effort to reassert control over the capital city. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq, thousands of Shi'ites turned out in several cities to denounce U.S. forces, after a Shi'ite politician's son was briefly detained near the Iranian border.

The Baghdad security operation, called "Fardh al-Qanoon," or "Imposing Order," continues to expand, as troops take up positions in new areas of the capital, and search homes and vehicles for weapons and explosives.

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Bulani said the operation is allowing Iraqi and U.S. forces to more closely track insurgents. Bulani says U.S. and Iraqi forces have been observing insurgent strategies, and are learning how to more quickly target them. He says Iraq forces are learning to adapt and solve problems, and, in the last few days, they have succeeded in stopping some terrorist plots.

But there is skepticism among many Iraqis and Americans that the deployment of thousands more troops in the capital will, on its own, be enough to uproot Iraq's deeply entrenched sectarian militias.

In the Democratic Party's weekly radio address Saturday, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke urged the U.S. government to reach out to Iraq's neighbors for help. "Engaging in a broad-based diplomatic offensive, and beginning a redeployment of U.S. forces in Iraq, represents the best way to secure America's interests in the region, and combat the serious threat of terrorist networks," he said.

President Bush opposes talks with Iran and Syria, which he accuses of not doing enough to stop Iraq's insurgency. The president also has alleged that Iran's military supplies Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated explosives, and part of the new security operation includes tightening Iranian border checkpoints to intercept weapons shipments.

At one of those checkpoints on Friday, U.S. forces detained the oldest son of powerful Shi'ite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, as he was driving from Iran into Iraq.

The U.S. military said Amar Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, whose father leads the Shi'ite party called the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, was riding in a convoy that displayed suspicious activities. He was released after several hours, without charge, and the military said he was treated with respect. But people traveling with Mr. Hakim said the group had been treated roughly by American soldiers.

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad apologized for the incident, but the detention sparked anger among thousands of Shi'ites, who demonstrated in Baghdad, Basra, Kut and Najaf.

Iraqi television broadcast images of hundreds of people rallying in the city Kut, where al-Hakim was held.

One man said, "if you look at these people and read the banners they are holding, they are very angry about what the Americans did to al Hakim."

In Basra, the Shi'ite majority city in southern Iraq, one protester said the detention of such an important person went too far. A man said, "This was a very bad attack by occupation forces against al Hakim - it crossed a red line. This attack is against all Islamic leaders."

Hakim is a highly influential figure in Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's government, and he met with President Bush in December. He has not publicly commented on his son's detention.