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Infighting plagues Iraq Awakening groups

BAGHDAD, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Iraq's Sunni Arab Awakening Councils are showing signs of restiveness as their U.S.-paid leaders face major changes, military sources say.

Many of the leaders of the Awakening Councils, which were assembled by the U.S. military to battle al-Qaida In Iraq and other terrorist groups, are former Saddam Hussein loyalists who once fought U.S.-led coalition forces. Now, as the military prepares to turn responsibility for the councils over to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, some are concerned the transfer might go badly, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

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There is infighting, finger-pointing and even violence within the ranks of the councils, as known as the Sons of Iraq, as commanders jockey for position and higher pay, the Times said.

"What you have is essentially armed factions, like mini-gangs, that operate in a certain set of checkpoints in certain territories," Lt. Erick Kuylman, a U.S. Army patrol commander, said, adding that while the Awakening Councils met their original purpose of battling terrorists, "they have outlived, I think, their service since then."

Two people were killed Sunday, including the cousin of an Awakening commander, after a fight broke out between a council commander and guards loyal to another commander, the newspaper said.

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