The mayor of Baqouba and 1,500 police officers in Diyala province have been fired in a bid to end the raging violence in that region northeast of Baghdad, the provincial police chief said Sunday.

Ghanim al-Qureyshi, who took command of police operations in the violent province after his predecessor was sacked last month, said Mayor Khalid Al-Senjeri, a Sunni Muslim, was dismissed over suspicions he was collaborating with Sunni Arab insurgents.

Last week, the mayor was reported kidnapped by insurgents who blew up his office and stole several new police vehicles in Baquoba, the provincial capital. He was released a few days later.

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Al-Qureyshi said the 1,500 policemen were fired because they fled rather than fight when insurgents attacked in Baqouba in November. The chief said he was determined to create a police force free of corruption.

American and Iraqi officials reported last week that their military forces had killed 100 insurgent fighters in a 10-day operation near Baqouba.

In June, Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike on his hideout near Baqouba, and his death was followed by a series of raids that the military said revealed a "treasure trove" of intelligence.

But the situation in Baqouba began to worsen in October when Iraq's predominantly Shiite Muslim army launched a major detention campaign against suspected Sunni insurgents in the city. Angry Sunnis fought back.

Days after the start of the campaign, leaflets of a little-known group called the Mujahedeen of Diyala were found in the streets. They demanded the resignation of the army and police commanders as well as the governor of the province — all Shiites — within 30 days.

None of the three resigned by the deadline, and insurgents attacked police, leaving dozens of people dead. The police force nearly collapsed in late November, and the city has been under the authority of the Iraqi army since then.

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