Sunnis denounce U.S.-ordered security wall

A wall U.S. troops are building around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad came under increasing criticism on Saturday, with residents calling it "collective punishment."

A senior Sunni politician in Iraq has condemned a U.S. military project to build a five-kilometre wall around a Sunni enclave in Baghdad.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the largest Sunni bloc in the Iraqi parliament, on Saturday said construction of thewall began in the Azamiyah district without the neighbourhood council's approval.

This undated document released by the Azamiyah local council in Baghdad on Friday shows plans for building a security barrier around the Sunni Muslim neighbourhood. ((Associated Press))

Some residents said the project, starting four years into the U.S.-led occupation, will hurt the innocent.

"This will make the whole district a prison,"Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area told the Associated Press."This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah.They are going to punish all of us because of a few terrorists here and there."

The U.S. military said troops arebuilding the wallto separateAzamiyah district from nearby Shia neighbourhoods.U.S. spokesmen have called it a centrepiece of their strategy to end sectarian violence in the area.

The plan is that by the end of the month, the overwhelmingly Sunni neighbourhood will be encircled with three-metre-high concrete blocks. People will have to pass through checkpoints manned by Iraqi troops.

Azamiyah is a volatile area, from where insurgents have long operated. Graffiti praising al-Qaeda adorns the walls of buildings in the district. Violence regularly flares along the line between the district and nearby Shia areas.

However,Adnan al-Dulaimi has called the wall a disaster. Speaking toan Iraqi news agency, he said it will separate the district from the rest of Baghdad andbreed further violence and instability.

With files from the Associated Press