Saudis bear brunt of Iraqi frustrations

Jan. 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM
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BAGHDAD, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- An authority in charge of Saudi detainees in Iraqi prisons said inmates were attacked by prison guards following a soccer match.

Thamer Balheed, identified by al-Arabiya as the head of Saudi detainees in Iraq, told the broadcaster about 20 Saudi inmates were "tortured" by Iraqi prison guards after the Iraqi national team lost 2-1 to the Saudis during a match in the United Arab Emirates.

Al-Arabiya said Iraqis were frustrated with a Saudi referee during the match. Balheed said he was met "with extreme intransigence" when he tried to raise the issue of detainee conditions with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite.

Al-Arabiya has been labeled by the government in Baghdad as anti-Iraqi. Nevertheless, the report highlights a growing sense of frustration in Iraq as the country heads toward elections in April.

Protesters last week took to the streets of the northern city of Mosul, complaining the Maliki administration was discriminating against the Sunni population in the country. Similar protests have erupted in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, once the center of the insurgency during the height of the U.S.-led military operation there.

A string of attacks across Iraq last week left dozens of people dead and more than 100 wounded. Martin Kobler, the U.N. special envoy to Iraq and head of the assistance mission there, said he was alarmed by the level of violence in post-war Iraq.

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