Former Mosul governor Atheel Nujaifi inspecting a trench during training of the Sunni militia in the Neineveh plains. Official photo
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Former governor of Mosul and now leader of the Sunni militia known as Hashd al-Watani warns against any participation of Shiite militia in the battle for his city, adding that local residents prefer the Islamic State (ISIS) due to fears of reprisal and human rights abuse they have seen in liberated parts of the country.
"They think if Hashd al-Shaabi Shiite militia come to Mosul, they will avenge and torture them,” Atheel Nujaifi told Rudaw TV on Tuesday. “Possibly, some people will fight alongside ISIS when it comes to the choice between ISIS and Hashd al-Shaabi,"
Mujaifi who now leads a several thousand strong Sunni force said that video footage of the Shiite militia torturing escapees from Fallujah have frightened many in Mosul.
“What has been happening now in Fallujah is the arrest of those people who have fled ISIS,” he said. “We clearly see on TV that they torture and kill them. People condemn that, and many Sunni leaders want to document these atrocities and show them to the International organizations and UN to intervene in this matter.”
Nujaifi himself fled Mosul in the summer of 2014 when ISIS militants attacking from Syria overran his city and routed the Iraqi army. He has since been operating out of the Kurdistan Region where he leads his own militia force trained by Turkey.
Other Sunni leaders have warned that the Shiite militia have detained and tortured civilians fleeing Fallujah on charges of affiliation with ISIS.
Rajih Barak of the Anbar provincial council said that 600 families were held temporarily by the militia before handing them over to local authorities.
“The detainees were in critical condition, facing many tortures and abuses. Four of them were killed under torture and two others are in critical condition,” Barakat told Rudaw on Sunday.
Nujaifi for his part blamed the Iraqi government and US officials for not taking seriously the plight of the Sunnis in the last few years.
"Neither the Iraqi government nor the US nor parts of the [international] organizations have done anything against the oppression of Sunnis,” said the former governor. “They even refute us, saying nothing is done against the Sunnis.”
Nujaifi warned that “if they do not take these matters into account, there will be a significant amount of violence in Sunni areas after ISIS is gone,”
On the battle for Mosul Nujaifi believes a revolt by the local population against ISIS will speed up the process and spare many lives and properties.
Nujaifi admitted that his Sunni force alone will be unable to liberate Mosul by itself and will need the help of the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi army.
“Hashd al-Watani is ready to liberate Mosul, but not the whole province,” he explained. “Parts of the province will be liberated by the Peshmerga especially Nineveh plains. Other parts will be liberated by the Iraqi army, when these forces reach the surroundings of Mosul, Hashd al-Watani's task is to go into Mosul.”