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DOJ plans to detain dozens of Iraqis

From Kelli Arena
CNN Washington Bureau

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
•  Weapons: 3D Models

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI will detain about three dozen Iraqis in the United States who are considered sympathetic to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or who are deemed a threat to Americans, government officials said Wednesday.

The detentions, which are expected to begin this week, will all be related to visa violations, officials said. The timing of the move does not necessarily coincide with the commencement of any military action against Iraq, because some of the detentions may take place before a U.S.-lead attack occurs.

The individuals in question have been under FBI surveillance for weeks and will be detained by FBI agents on immigration issues, officials said. The operation involved at least five cities, but officials would not identify which cities.

The FBI was recently granted the power to enforce immigration law by Attorney General John Ashcroft, after the Immigration and Naturalization Services moved under the umbrella of the Homeland Security Department.

There is a concern that the Iraqis under surveillance are connected to the Iraqi Intelligence Service, which, according to an FBI advisory sent to law enforcement agencies Tuesday, is capable of assassinations, hijackings and bombings.

However, the advisory noted, such Iraqi agents are "inconsistently competent practitioners of conventional terrorist methods and techniques," and it said al Qaeda remains the No. 1 threat to the United States.

The group of Iraqis that will be detained is separate from the more than 11,000 Iraqi nationals in the United States whom the FBI has located and plans to interview during the first weeks of any military conflict with Iraq.

Those Iraqis are not thought to pose any threat, but are expected to be able to provide information the U.S. government may find useful. Any interviews with the larger group of Iraqis would be voluntary.

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