|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-321647 Iraq Security (L)
TITLE=IRAQ / SECURITY (L-O)
HEADLINE: Iraqi Government "Improving Security" But Violence Continues
INTRO: Trying to counter perceptions that the Iraqi government is not doing enough to stem violence, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says security forces have captured and arrested a number of suspected insurgents, including a top leader of a radical Islamic group. Just hours before the prime minister spoke, gunmen shot and killed the deputy police chief of Baghdad and his son in the latest deadly attack on Iraqi security forces. Correspondent Alisha Ryu has more from the Iraqi capital.
TEXT: Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi says a pre-election crackdown by Iraqi forces has resulted in the arrests of nearly 150 people, including several leading figures behind recent violent attacks.
Mr. Allawi identified one of the leaders in custody as Raad al-Douri, who took over the leadership of the radical Islamic group Mohammed's Army after its leader, Mouayad Ahmed Yasseen, was arrested by Iraqi forces in November.
Mohammed's Army has claimed responsibility for killing and beheading dozens of Iraqis and non-Iraqis. Mr. Allawi says interrogations of the two insurgent leaders have confirmed that several groups are at work to disrupt national elections, scheduled for January 30th.
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"Some mixture of groups, including Baathists, ex-regime elements, including foreign terrorists. And the investigations are still on-going. Once we have the full details, we will make everything public."
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Mr. Allawi would not comment on reports that captured militants are also confessing about receiving money and weapons from neighboring Iran and Syria. The United States and the Iraqi government have accused both countries of trying to undermine Iraq's efforts to hold democratic elections.
Meanwhile, violence aimed at crippling security and scaring away voters continued to escalate.
In Baghdad, gunmen killed the city's deputy police chief and his son while the pair traveled in a police car to work. In a separate attack, a suicide bomber detonated a car full of explosives in the courtyard of a police station in southern Baghdad, killing several policemen.
Another radical Iraqi Muslim group called the Army of Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility for the attack on the police station, calling Iraqi policemen "apostate forces who are the right-hand men of crusader forces in Iraq."
Prime Minister Allawi says his government has not been consulted about a report of possible U.S. plans to form elite hit-squads to target insurgency leaders. U.S. officials have not commented on the report.
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"You can go and ask the Americans. We do not know about anything. This has nothing to do with us. We know nothing about it. We are not party to it. We do not know if it is true or not."
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Newsweek magazine reports the Pentagon is considering sending American Special Forces troops to advise and possibly train Iraqi fighters to do the job.
The prime minister also denied news reports that the entire 13-member electoral commission in the restive Anbar province resigned Sunday after being threatened by insurgents. He says the report is based on the wishful thinking of insurgents, not on facts. (SIGNED)
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