US commander: Iraqi province distrusts army, police
Suspected insurgents arrested in Baqouba, capital of Diyala provice, on Tuesday
WASHINGTON, Dec 15 (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces are struggling to ease sectarian tension in one of Iraq's most volatile areas where much of the population seeking security turns to terrorists, not Iraqi troops or police, a U.S. commander said on Friday.
Army Col. David Sutherland, commander of forces in Iraq's Diyala province, said suspicions of corruption within the Iraqi forces increased support for terrorist groups.
"Public perceptions of corruption, inequity and fear are the driving force behind support to terrorist organizations," Sutherland, speaking on a video link from Baquba, Iraq, told Pentagon reporters.
The Iraqi security force is heavily Shi'ite in Diyala, which is majority Sunni and a major center of sectarian hatred in Iraq.
Attacks on Shi'ites by Sunni insurgents linked to al Qaeda and reprisals by both sides have surged since the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in February.
"Some political groups and tribal leaders are turning to terrorist and insurgent organizations for protection," Sutherland said. "This sort of unity only worsens the sectarian divide and encourages further violence.
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