Maliki Orders Iraq VP Arrested
Shiite government accuses Sunni leader of terrorism
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2011 1:06 PM CST
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011.   (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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(Newser) – Nouri al-Maliki's government ratcheted up sectarian tensions in a big way today by issuing an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's top-ranking Sunni official, on terrorism charges, the AP reports. Hashimi is accused of running a death squad that assassinated government and security officials, authorities said on state-run TV, broadcasting grainy video of confessions from three men identified as his bodyguards.

The men said they’d planted bombs in public squares, opened fire on convoys and more, with one man saying Hashimi had personally given him $3,000 after an attack. Hashimi denies any wrongdoing, one of his aides tells the New York Times, though he confirmed that the men did work for him. He said Hashimi was currently in Kurdistan. The arrest warrant is the latest and most dramatic move Iraq’s Shiite-led government has made against Sunni leaders in the hours since US troops departed; click for more on the deepening crisis.