Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Some FPS guards replaced at ministries in clampdown

Above: Members of the Facilities Protection Service, with a pciture of Moqtada al-Sadr prominently displayed in the windshield of their official vehicle. Tasked with guarding government offices, the force expanded over two years from 4,000 guards to over 170,000.

Nearly 500 guards were removed from their posts at the Ministry of Culture in Iraq yesterday as the Government tried to curb the influence of sectarian gunmen.

The men will be moved out of the frontline as they await a place at a police college to be retrained. They were replaced with 80 policemen.

The move is the lastest effort of Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, to clean up the unregulated ranks of civilian gunmen who guard the country’s ministries and whose loyalties are to a mishmash of different parties rather than the state.

“This is the best long-term plan for the future,” said Lieutenant-General Aboud Qanbar, the top Iraqi commander in Baghdad who is in charge of implementing the new policy.

Armed with a gun and a glare, many of the guards hired to protect Government buildings, hospitals and mosques play a part in the sectarian divisions that fuel the violence in Iraq, with members of Shia and Sunni militias infiltrating their ranks. Another big problem is a lack of training and exper-tise because no central authority has been vetting the 170,000 gunmen, who have guarded official structures since the March 2003 invasion.

Read the rest at the Times of London