June 1, 2005 – US and Iraqi forces launched "Operation Lightning" with a series of raids throughout Baghdad, including the arrest the man who heads the largest Sunni Arab political party. Troops detained Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP) leader Mohsen Abdul Hamid along with three of his sons and four guards in a pre-dawn raid on his Baghdad home Monday.
The incident occurred one day after the London-based Al-Hayat quoted prominent IIP official Iyad Al-Azawi describing the new offensive as "nothing but a confessional war by the new state against the Sunni Arabs," the BBC reports.
Apparently embarrassed by the arrest of a prominent official, the US military issued a statement calling the arrest a "mistake" and expressing "regret." For its part, the IIP stated that "the US administration claims it is interested in drawing Sunnis into the political process, but it seems their way of doing so is by raids, arrests and violating human rights."
Hamid was released later the same day, yet the incident highlighted a common pattern in US raids. IIP official Ala Makki told Iraqâ€™s independent broadcaster, Al-Sharqiyah TV, that US soldiers put a bag on Hamidâ€™s head and smashed the windows of his house before he was taken into custody and interrogated without charge, according to a translation by the BBC.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News Sunday that US forces have detained more than 68,000 people, referring to arrests in Afghanistan and Iraq since October 2001.
Hamid, widely seen as a "moderate" politician, was a member of the now-defunct, US-appointed Interim Governing Council. The Iraqi Islamic Party, which he has led since 2003, did not participate in the formal Sunni boycott of the January elections, but the party ultimately withdrew its candidates saying violence made a fair poll impossible.