Shiite militias have risen up across Iraq since the ISIS advance in June. Photo: AP.
by Hunar Ahmad
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Shiite militias in Iraq have bolstered their numbers in oil-rich Kirkuk province, with a total of 8,000 militiamen deployed in four military training bases in the outskirts of Kirkuk.
“Nearly 4,000 Shiite militia fighters from the south, led by commander Muhammad Taqi, have been receiving military training in the Qadirkaram and Amirli bases,” a source told Rudaw.
They are mainly active members of Shiite armed groups that include Khorasan, Hezbollah, the Badr brigade and Asaib al-Haq. They have also formed a paramilitary force of 550 Shiite fighters inside the city of Kirkuk.
The source told Rudaw that the senior commander of the Shiite militias, named Qambar Mahmood, has overseen the transportation of more than 3,000 various weapons to the militias in the past two weeks alone.
The increasing number of Shiite militia fighters has bred anxiety among Kirkuk residents. Some are concerned about possible confrontations between the Shiite militias and the Peshmerga forces in the future, while others believe the presence of the Shiite militias is to control Kirkuk and the disputed territories.
When asked about the purpose of the Shiite militias in Kirkuk, Najat Hussein, the head of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq in Kirkuk, said it was to celebrate victory against the Islamic State alongside Peshmerga forces this upcoming spring.
The Arab Sunni members of the Kirkuk provincial council have been against any participation of the Shiite militias in operations to liberate their towns and villages around Kirkuk. Instead, they demand the formation of local paramilitary forces to liberate their areas from ISIS.
Iraq’s national security advisor, Falh Fayaz, during a visit to Kirkuk announced a government plan to increase the presence of Shiite militias and form local national guards in Kirkuk.