updated 9/13/2007 7:27:29 PM ET 2007-09-13T23:27:29

U.S. troops have taken into custody an Iraqi army battalion commander suspected of ordering militia attacks on American forces, the military said Thursday.

The commander — whose name and rank were not released — was picked up last week by elements of the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade combat team, the military said in a statement. Battalions are usually commanded by colonels.

The Iraqi army and police forces are widely known to be infiltrated by people whose loyalties lie with Shiite militias, and Sunnis often complain that many sectarian crimes carried out against them are by men in uniform.

The battalion commander allegedly selected criminal militia members for the Bahaa al-Araji militia — closely allied with the better-known Mahdi Army of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The commander is suspected of ordering an attack on U.S. forces in April, and suspected in the removal of Sunni families from neighborhoods in western Baghdad, the military said.

"This arrest will have two effects," said Maj. Guy Wetzel, staff officer with the 2nd Brigade combat team. "First, it will disrupt the illegal activities of criminal militias in the area, specifically within the Iraqi army, and second, it will help to restore local trust in the Iraqi Security Forces."

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