Probe finds Iraqi VP behind death squads

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- An Iraqi investigation panel says the country's Sunni vice president and his employees were behind years of deadly attacks on security officials and Shiite pilgrims.

Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar did not offer any evidence Thursday to back up the panel's findings.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi has denied the charges and accuses Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of coordinating a smear campaign to consolidate power.

The independent judicial council appointed the nine-judge investigating committee after the government issued an arrest warrant against al-Hashemi in December, throwing Iraq's politics into chaos.

Al-Hashemi is in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, where he has sought refuge from the central government in Baghdad.