The Iraqi Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant Thursday for the head of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars for allegedly inciting violence.
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani, speaking on state television, said Harith al-Dhari was wanted for inciting terrorism and violence among the Iraqi people. Al-Dhari is the top leader for the country’s Sunni minority, and the move against him was likely to inflame sectarian violence already ravaging Baghdad and central Iraq.
Association spokesman Mohammed Bashar al-Faidi told Al-Jazeera television the Interior Ministry’s decision “is condemned with all its details. I don’t know how to describe it but it represents the bankruptcy of the sectarian government following one scandal after the other.”
Al-Faidi accused the interior minister “of supporting terrorism by covering for militias that are killing the Iraqi people. ... The decisions of this government are worthless because it only rules the Green Zone.”
On Tuesday, President Jalal Talabani called al-Dhari a hard-liner with “nothing to do but incite sectarian and ethnic sedition.”
Believed to be in Jordan
Al-Dhari regularly travels between Iraq and the Gulf states, as well as Syria, Jordan and Egypt. He was believed to be in Jordan when the arrest warrant was issued Thursday night.
Al-Dhari is an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government and the U.S. military presence in Iraq. In a television interview last week, he mocked a government offer of reconciliation in return for abandoning the insurgency.
Speaking late Thursday, al-Bolani said “the government’s policy is that anyone who tries to spread division and strife among the Iraq people will be chased by our security agencies.
“We have to prove for everyone that the government is national and it is going forward with major steps to achieve security and to achieve its political program,” al-Bolani told Al-Iraqiyah television.