BAGHDAD - Iraq has demobilised an entire Baghdad police brigade accused of complicity with sectarian death squads and moved it to a US military base for retraining, a spokesman for US forces said Wednesday.
"There was clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely, when in fact they were supposed to be impeding their movement," Major General William Caldwell told reporters.
"It was realised that removing them from Baghdad would, in fact, enhance security," he said about the 8th Brigade of the 2nd Division of the Iraqi National Police, which numbers between 800 and 1,200 officers.
The decision was made late Tuesday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and came after the brigade commander was suspended in the wake of a brazen daylight kidnapping operation carried out by men in uniforms.
The brigade was stationed in northwest Baghdad, including the flashpoint neighborhoods of Ghazaliyah and Shuala, which US commanders have said are facing re-infiltration by militias after being cleared.
"It was in one of the areas that violence was not going down," said Caldwell.
"The brigade's past performance does not demonstrate the level of professionalism sought by the (Iraqi) ministry of the interior," he said.
The decision to pull the brigade was partly motivated by a review done of all 27 National Police battalions as well as "talking to people in the city where these brigades were operating".
There will be further review and retraining of the other National Police units, many of whom were drawn up hurriedly in 2004 and 2005 to meet the increased need for manpower amid ongoing political violence.
Baghdad is in the grip of a fierce sectarian dirty war between rival Sunni and Shiite insurgents and death squads. The city's Shiite-dominated police are often accused of siding with sectarian militias implicated in the violence.