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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 April 2007, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Sunni leader attacks Baghdad wall
A night-vision view of the site where the wall is being built (image courtesy of the US military)
Construction of the wall is already under way
A senior Sunni politician has condemned a US military project to build a concrete wall around a Sunni enclave in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

US forces say the wall, which will separate Adhamiya from nearby Shia districts, aims to prevent sectarian violence between the two communities.

But Adnan al-Dulaimi, who heads the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament, says it will breed yet more strife.

Some Adhamiya residents have said the wall will make their district a prison.

"The Americans will provoke more trouble with this," one resident, Arkan Saeed, told the BBC. "They're telling us the wall is to protect us from the Shia militia and they're telling the Shia they're protecting them from us.

"But it's the Americans who started all the sectarian violence in the first place."

Adhamiya lies on the mainly Shia Muslim east bank of the Tigris river and violence regularly flares between the enclave and nearby Shia areas.

Construction of the 5km (three-mile) concrete wall began on 10 April and the US military says it hopes to complete the project by the end of the month.

I resent the barrier. It will make Adhamiya a big prison
Adhamiya resident
US troops, protected by heavily-armed vehicles, have been working at night to build the 3.6m (12 ft) wall.

When it is finished, people will enter and leave Adhamiya through a small number of checkpoints guarded by US and Iraqi forces.

The US military says the barrier is the centrepiece of its strategy to end sectarian violence in the area but insists there are no plans to divide up the whole city into gated communities.

Senior Sunni cleric Adnan al-Dulaimi, who leads the General Council for the People of Iraq which is part of the Iraqi Accord Front, said the wall was a disaster.

Speaking to an Iraqi news agency, he said it would separate Adhamiya from the rest of Baghdad and help breed further violence.

'Maze of walls'

Some residents said the wall would harden the already bitter sectarian divide.

Iraqi policeman next to car bomb wreckage - file photo
The wall is meant to prevent sectarian attacks in Baghdad
"Erecting concrete walls between neighbourhoods is not a solution to the collapse in security and the rampant violence," housewife Um Haider told AFP news agency.

"If so, Baghdadis would find themselves in a maze of high walls overnight."

Another resident, Mustafa, said: "I resent the barrier. It will make Adhamiya a big prison."

Other residents also expressed alarm and said they had not been consulted before construction began.

"This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Adhamiya," Ahmed al-Dulaimi told the Associated Press news agency.

"We are in our fourth year of occupation and we are seeing the number of blast walls increasing day after day."

US and Iraqi troops have long built cement barriers around key locations in Baghdad and other cities to prevent attacks, especially suicide car bombings.

Iraq has been in the grip of raging sectarian violence since the bombing of an important Shia shrine in Samarra in February 2006.

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