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Iraq Inquiry Blames Sunni Vice President For Attacks

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi
An Iraqi investigation panel says death squads under the command of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi were behind years of fatal attacks on security officials and Shi'ite pilgrims.

Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar did not offer any evidence to back up the panel's findings on February 16.

Hashimi has denied the charges and accuses Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of coordinating a smear campaign to consolidate power.

The country's independent Judicial Council appointed the nine-judge panel after the government last year issued an arrest warrant against Hashimi.

The warrant was issued on December 19, a day after U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq.

Hashimi is in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, where he has sought refuge from the central government in Baghdad.

Compiled from agency reports