A Shiite fighter with the Hashd al-Shaabi. Photo: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Sectarian tensions in Iraq’s Babil province are high where officials report Hashd al-Shaabi forces have threatened to kill Sunni Arabs residents in the north of the province if they do not the area within 24 hours. The Shiite force has denied the accusations, calling them baseless.
“The militias belonging to the Asaib, Khurasani, Imam Ali and the Hizbullah have circulated leaflets in some areas of north Babil in which they have set 24 hours for the Sunni Arabs of these areas to vacate their houses and leave their areas or be killed,” an official from the Babil police said.
An MP with the Iraqi Forces Union issued a statement detailing the ongoing sectarian tensions in Babil, south of Baghdad.
“The Sunni Arabs of some of the areas in north Babil always face sectarian campaigns by organizations. Over the past three years, nearly 1,000 of them have been kidnapped. Hundreds of others were killed. Four days ago, 15 of them were abducted and their fate is still unknown. In addition, 100,000 IDPs are prevented from returning to their places which were liberated three years ago,” Ahmed Salmani said in his statement.
The objective behind these campaigns is to change the demography of these areas, he alleged.
A spokesperson for the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the Shiite militias accused of issuing the threats, dismissed the accusations as an attempt to stir up trouble.
“This information is groundless,” Jawad Talibawi told Rudaw
. “The purpose of these rumors is to destabilize the situation and accuse groups within the Hashd al-Shaabi.”
He said that his troops support the security forces and any decisions are made by the military commanders.
“The decision on the returning of IDPs to their areas is vested with [Prime Minister] Abadi, and this question is more political than military. The parliament, the Iraqi government, and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces are the ones who will make a decision on the returning of the IDPs. And we will welcome such a decision,” Tallibawi added.
Salmani called on Abadi to take responsibility for protecting the civilians of these areas and to commence an investigation into the allegations.