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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 June 2005, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Profile: Iraq's Wolf Brigade
Wolf Brigade commandos in Baghdad
Wolf members have been decorated for valour
To its admirers, the Wolf Brigade is the elite commando unit spearheading the new Iraqi government's war on terror.

Detractors see it as a Shia Muslim-dominated force set on intimidating the Sunni minority.

The brigade certainly has a high profile in Iraq.

Its members wear distinctive red berets and are typically to be seen cruising the streets in pick-up trucks bristling with machine-guns.

Abul Waleed, the brigade's commander, is held to be the brains behind a popular Iraqi TV programme in which suspected militants are made to "confess" to the camera.

The programme, Terrorism in the hands of justice, has been described by analysts as a key propaganda tool for the new government in its battle to discredit the insurgents.

'Sunni officers'

Formally, the brigade is a special forces unit of the new interior ministry, led by former officers of Saddam Hussein's army, who were brought back into the new security forces because of their military experience.

Man arrested by Wolf Brigade commandos in Baghdad
The brigade's treatment of detainees is often controversial

In a recent interview, Abul Waleed said there were about 2,000 commandos in the brigade. Others have estimated its strength to be in the hundreds.

Speaking to Knight Ridder News, the commander made no secret of his own Shia affiliation but he said that many of the brigade's most senior officers were Sunni.

According to the interview, the brigade was set up in October 2004 and members were trained by US forces for nearly two months before their first major operation, in the restive northern city of Mosul.

Since then, the brigade has taken part in the anti-insurgent operation in Baghdad known as Operation Lightning, conducting raids in the search for suspects.

Sunni Muslims have accused it of kidnapping and killing members of their community, including clerics.

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