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CITIZEN GROUPS ADDING TO CONFLICT

The U.S.-backed forces are becoming problematic as they confront officials.

Conflicts between provincial governments and local Sunni Arab forces allied with the United States intensified this weekend in two provinces.

The conflicts raise the prospect that the creation of the forces, known as Awakening Councils or Concerned Local Citizens, formed to fight extremists and bring calm to the country, might instead add to the unrest in two provinces, Diyala and Anbar.

In Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, 300 members of the local citizens groups, many of whom are former insurgents, left their outposts, from which they start patrols and guard the surrounding areas.

The citizens groups said they took the step as a protest against the Shiite police commander for the province, whom they accuse of being sectarian and a member of the Mahdi Army, a militia affiliated with the anti-American rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to an official in the governor's office who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The police commander, Staff. Gen. Ghanim al-Quraishi, has accused many in these citizens groups of continuing their killing and displacing Shiite families and has removed some of them from their posts and detained others.

The U.S. military recruits and pays the groups to fight Islamic extremists. Although the groups have mostly seemed to be cooperating, more recently their behavior has been problematic.

In Anbar province, tensions escalated between leaders of the local Awakening movement and the Iraqi Islamic Party, which as the sole major Sunni party to contest the most recent local elections won control of the provincial council. Party members said Saturday that they might bring a lawsuit against the Awakening leaders for saying they would oust the party from control; the leaders had previously called for a new election in the next couple of months in order to try to win seats on the council.

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