Iraq has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a senior security official said on Monday, after the government obtained confessions linking him to what the official described as terrorist activities.
Interior Ministry spokesman, Major General Adel Daham, told a news conference that confessions by suspects identified as Hashemi’s bodyguards linked the vice president to suspected killings and attacks.
The arrest warrant was signed by five judges, Daham added.
Earlier on Monday Hashemi had been barred from leaving the country.
News of the warrant came as state broadcaster Al-Iraqiya TV aired footage showing what the interior ministry said was Hashemi’s bodyguards confessing to planning and carrying out terror attacks, and receiving funding and support from the vice president.
At least 13 of Hashemi’s bodyguards have been arrested in recent weeks, though it was unclear how many were still being held.
The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region Massud Barzani earlier called for urgent talks to prevent the “collapse” of the country’s national unity government, warning that “the situation is headed towards deep crisis.”
Hashemi’s office on Monday complained of “intentional harassment” in the form of a security force blockading his home for several weeks, as well as other incidents.
“The vice-president has been very patient and is waiting for a reasonable explanation from the government parties concerned,” the statement said. “He is demanding the immediate release of the three officers who have been detained without judicial orders to arrest them.”
The latest events come after the Iraqiya bloc of Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq said on Saturday it was boycotting parliament in protest over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s alleged monopolizing of power.
On Sunday Maliki called for Mutlaq to be ousted, and lawmakers are due to consider his request on January 3, a parliament official said.
The renewed political infighting has overshadowed the U.S. withdrawal and dominated Iraqi newspaper headlines on Monday.
Mutlaq, who had been accused of being a supporter of Saddam’s outlawed Baath party in the run-up to the 2010 elections that he was barred from standing in, told his own Babiliyah television channel that Maliki was “worse than Saddam Hussein.”
Fearing a deepening crisis that could push Iraq back into sectarian turmoil, senior Iraqi politicians were holding talks with Maliki and other leaders to contain the dispute.
The large-scale sectarian violence of 2006-07 has largely subsided, but tensions still simmer close to the surface, with many Sunnis feeling shunted aside by the rise of Shiite power after the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.