Iraqi lawmaker and paramilitary commander Hadi al-Amiri defended Shiite fighters at the forefront of the battle against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from accusations of mass executions and burning homes, and urged the United States to upgrade Iraq’s military capabilities.
Amiri, one of Iraq’s most powerful men, told Reuters in an interview over the weekend nobody from pro-government paramilitary groups had set foot in the village of Barwanah where the worst of the atrocities is alleged.
That clashed with accounts from Diyala’s Sunni governor and provincial council members who described Shi’ite militia fighters and security forces executing at least 72 unarmed civilians last month in the eastern province.
Five witnesses Reuters interviewed on Jan. 28 also fingered the militias.
Amiri, who heads the Badr Organisation, a political movement with an armed wing, is tasked with Diyala’s security file, giving him control of army and police there in addition to the government-run Hashid Shaabi, or popular mobilization committee, which includes paramilitary groups and volunteers.
He has led the campaign against ISIS in other parts of the country as well, answering directly to the prime minister.
“I did not put even one Hashid Shaabi in the Barwanah operations zone. They might be residents of the area but they are not Hashid Shaabi,” he said, adding that he had given residents a month’s notice ahead of operations.
“The element of surprise is a principle of warfare ... We renounced that in order to preserve civilian lives.”
Amiri blamed unnamed Sunni politicians sympathetic to Sunni militants for slandering the Hashid Shaabi and called the reported killing in Barwanah “lies”.
“These politicians are defending Daesh,” Amiri told Reuters, using a pejorative term for ISIS. “These people don’t want Hashid Shaabi to liberate Iraq.”
“It’s a battlefield and if anyone from Barwanah was killed, give us their names. We are ready to investigate and will punish whoever is responsible.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite Islamist who has sought reconciliation between Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite communities, has opened his own inquiry into the accusations and sent his Sunni defence minister to Barwanah on Thursday.
Abadi and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite cleric, have also denounced looting and torching of homes in areas freed from ISIS, which itself has blown up and booby-trapped the areas it once controlled.
Amiri insisted to Reuters that paramilitary fighters were not to blame, instead faulting residents of those same areas for seeking revenge against alleged ISIS sympathizers.
“We suffer not from the Hashid Shaabi. We suffer from the reactions of the residents,” he said.
“Security forces are busy with the battle. We can’t hold down an area. We can’t lock the people in. It’s an open area. What can we do?”
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر