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Gunmen on Saturday shot dead 8 civilians in northern Saladin province
Iraq's prime minister on Sunday pledged to provide protection to local residents in the northern Saladin province, a day after the killing of eight civilians by gunmen.
"Our message to the people of Saladin is that the state will protect them," Mustafa al-Kadhimi said during a meeting with security and military officials in the province. "Terrorism and all criminal acts will be prosecuted under the law," he said.
On Saturday, gunmen abducted 12 civilians in the city of Balad and shot eight of them dead. Saladin's governor said the crime was committed by a group of people in military uniform.
Following the incident, al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation of security officials' failure to provide security.
The Iraqi Center for Documentation of War Crimes, an independent NGO, blamed the Shia Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militia for the massacre, an accusation denied by the group.
Iraqi politicians threaten the massacre of a country: We will boycott the elections and seek international protection
Twilight News / criticized deputies for Salahuddin local government, on Saturday, the federal government's inability to "put an end to " groups "armed outlaw" , and while politicians maintain called the popular crowd to disown "gangs", they threatened not to participate in the elections and asked International protection .
A statement issued by the representatives and the government of Salah al-Din governorate, reported to Shafaq News Agency, said, "Once again, the Iraqis are shocked by the incidents of murder, kidnapping and disappearance that are almost interrupted, especially in our liberated governorates, and in the forefront of which is Salah al-Din Governorate, which woke up today to the impact of a horrific crime in the village of Al-Rafi'at sub-district. Al-Farhatiya, south of the governorate . "
The statement added; "A crime is added to the record of the crimes of outlaw armed groups, which the government has not put an end to until today, and that even children have not been spared," he said, referring to members of the security forces among the victims of the massacre in Balad .
He stressed that "the repetition of these crimes under the shadow of uncontrolled weapons requires the government to take a firm and real stance, and it has become unacceptable to have armed groups that confiscate the security decision and prevent security forces of all kinds from fulfilling their duty to protect the security of citizens ."
He indicated that "the citizen in our governorate between two fires is not allowed to carry weapons to defend himself against criminal gangs and ISIS terrorist groups, nor is he protected by the security services, which themselves suffer from the interference of some armed groups in their work and plans, which confuses the security situation in the province." ".
The statement called for "the departure of all armed parties that are associated with parties or armed groups that try to attach themselves to the crowd, and some weak-minded people use it as a cover to commit crimes against innocent people. It has become imperative to remove them from our governorate and to keep the final word on security matters for our armed forces and internal security forces exclusively ."
He stressed that "these forces and security agencies do their duty properly in a manner that provides security for all citizens and in all regions of the province without discrimination, and that laws are applied fairly, professionally and impartially, and in all of this they adhere to human rights standards, and you will find from us all the support and support ."
The statement also demanded from the popular crowd, "to disavow those gangs that abuse it ."
The statement stressed that "the government must hasten to take a firm stand to uncover the clues of the Farhati crime, to take by the perpetrators, to prove its existence, strength and bias to the logic of the state and the law, and to announce the results of its investigations within a maximum period of seventy-two hours, otherwise all options are open to us in taking clear political and legal positions, whether Regarding elections that cannot be held under the hegemony of arms or in requesting international protection, if the government fails to protect the security of citizens, or any other political positions that contribute to strengthening security in our governorates .
Politicians of Saladin affirmed that "we will not be false witnesses to the passive, cold and indolent stances and the attempts to procrastinate with which these crimes are confronted ."
The US ambassador in Baghdad calls on the Iraqi authorities to arrest Al-Farhatiyah criminals
Shafaq News/ The American ambassador in Baghdad, Matthew Tueller, called on the Iraqi authorities to arrest the responsible criminals for Al-Farhatiyah massacre in Saladin.
In a statement received by Shafaq News agency, Tueller said, "The United States condemns the heinous murder that took place yesterday, in which Iraqi citizens were killed in Saladin", hoping that, "the visit of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to Al-Farhatiyah today is an important step to put all armed groups under the control of the state permanently".
On Saturday Unidentified gunmen shot dead eight young men without clarifying the reasons, while four others are currently missing, in Saladin governorate.
Kurdistan President, KDP leader denounce massacre of Iraqi civilians in rural Salahuddin
The President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani. (Photo: Presidency Office)
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, and the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, denounced on Sunday the killing of a group of Sunni civilians kidnapped in rural Salahuddin province.
Local police found the bodies of eight individuals in Farhatiya village, Balad district, Salahuddin province of the twelve that were abducted by unidentified gunmen, early reporting indicated. The fate of the rest remains unclear.
“We strongly condemn the heinous crime,” President Barzani said in a statement that urged the federal government of Iraq to take “speedy measures” to find the “terror group” behind it.
KDP President Masoud Barzani. (Photo: Archive)
Masoud Barzani stated that Baghdad, the relevant authorities, and the country’s political forces “must cooperate with each other to put an end to this kind of crime. He also stressed the importance of “achieving stability and working to protect the lives of citizens.”
While no group has claimed responsibility, Iraqi lawmaker Raad al-Dahlaki said on his Twitter account the killing “is not the first and it will not be the last carried out by the outlawed sectarian militias,” likely a reference to Iranian-backed elements of the Hashd al-Shaabi, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Dahlaki called on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to “end this recklessness.” The Iraqi Joint Operations Command ordered a committee to go to the area to investigate the matter.
The lawmaker is the deputy head of the Sunni Alliance of Iraqi Forces—led by the legislature’s speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi—which represents areas liberated from the so-called Islamic State, including Salahuddin, Anbar, Diyala, and Nineveh provinces.
As the head of the parliamentary committee for migration and displacement, Dahlaki has criticized Shia militias for allegedly hampering the return of people displaced by the emergence and the war on Islamic State.
The Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militias, part of the PMF, is reportedly the main security operator in the area. Local media reports suggested that the incident came after a suspected Islamic State attack killed an AAH member in the region.
The PMF said in a statement on Sunday that the same Islamic State extremists that attacked its fighters were behind the abductions, alleging further that the terrorist organization was attempting to sow division among different communities.
On Saturday, Halbousi ordered the formation of a fact-finding committee to investigate the abduction and killings.
Kadhimi arrived in Farhatiya on Sunday and told the families of the victims in a funeral gathering that the blood of their loved ones “will not be lost, and we will order the strengthening of the security forces' presence and providing more protection” to the area.
Accompanying Kadhimi in the Salahuddin visit were the ministers of defense and interior, the head of the Popular Mobilization Commission, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Deputy Commander of Joint Operations.
The premier pledged to pursue the perpetrators and said, “Terrorism will have no place or shelter, no matter how it tries to infiltrate again.
Killing of Sunni youths prompts calls for end to impunity in Iraq
The killing of at least eight Sunni youths from a village in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, allegedly by groups other than the Islamic State, has sparked outcry and demands for non-local forces to be expelled from the region.
Sunni Muslim Iraqis pray over the bodies of eight out of 12 men, who had been reportedly kidnapped and later some found shot dead, in the Farhatiya area of the Balad region, located 70 kilometers (around 45 miles) north of Baghdad in the Salaheddin province, on Oct. 18, 2020. Local sources said the four other kidnapped men have not been found and the identities of the assailants remain unknown. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.
The specter of a return to sectarian bloodletting in Iraq after the latest killings in the southern part of Salahuddin province has raised alarms in the Sunni-majority province northwest of the capital.
Gruesome photos of the corpses of eight young men from a village in the Farhatiya district near Balad, hands bound behind their backs, appeared in WhatsApp chats and then on social media on the evening of Oct. 17. Twelve men had been kidnapped, but as of Monday morning, it was still unclear what happened to the other four.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi made a highly publicized visit to the area the following day and spoke to residents in an attempt to assure locals that there would be consequences for those who committed the crime.
Many noted, however, that progress has apparently not been made in the cases of several other assassinations of prominent figures in the country in recent months, such as that of well-known counterterrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi in July, and expressed doubt that the perpetrators would be punished.
The young men killed were Sunnis. Locals immediately pointed the figure at Shiite-led “militias” operating in the area that are officially part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
In one cellphone video posted online in relation to the incident by Mishaan al-Jabouri, a prominent figure in the Salahuddin region, an elderly man with a traditional black-and-white checkered headscarf can be seen explicitly naming Brigade 42, part of the Iran-linked Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH).
Jabouri is known for involvement in a coup attempt against former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, his activities against the US occupation in the post-2003 period and his role in politics since then.
He commented on the social media post, saying, “Whoever killed hundreds of peaceful Shiite protesters in cold blood will not hesitate to kill those he called Yazid's descendants! If we are satisfied with statements of condemnation on the crime of Farhatiya, their crimes will escalate.”
Hundreds of protesters, mostly from Shiite-dominant central and southern Iraq, were killed during monthslong, massive anti-government protests that started in October 2019. Many have accused various Iran-linked armed factions, some of which are brigades within the PMU, of being responsible for the deaths.
Some in Nasiriyah that this journalist spoke to in person at the height of the protests, amid internet shutdowns and generalized chaos at times late last year when they remained in hiding in the southern city, specifically named AAH as being behind assassinations of their fellow Shiites who had spoken out against them.
By “Yazid’s descendants,” Jabouri was referring to a derogatory way of referring to Sunnis.
Jabouri’s son Yazan is the commander of a local Sunni PMU that received support from Shiite PMU commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis before he and Iranian Gen. Qasem Solaimani were killed in a US drone strike in January at the Baghdad airport.
Yazan has been called Muhandis’ "Sunni protege." He has in previous interviews with this journalist in the capital highly praised the late Shiite commander, who was at the head of the Iran-linked Kataib Hezbollah.
“The problem is not with this particular incident,” the younger Jabouri told Al-Monitor via a WhatsApp call on Oct. 18. “The problem is that certain people” hold complete power in certain areas of the country “for whom civilians are cockroaches: They can kill them at will and nothing ever happens.”
“If you don’t understand the locals, when you use violence you will get a reaction” that you may not expect, he added.
“In 2014, Sunnis did not feel the government was theirs. They did not feel they could get justice. And when you repeat the same mistakes, you get the same results,” he said with a clear note of exasperation in his voice.
Besides, he said, the Islamic State (IS) is “no longer a military threat [in Iraq]; it is a security issue” and must be treated as such.
“You will not solve the problem with soldiers, no matter how many you bring in. You need the support of the local community,” he said.
Jabouri said that he was certain, in any case, that “individuals associated with PMU brigades that are in charge of Balad and its surroundings” were involved in these latest killings.
Salahuddin as a whole is considered the heartland of the Jabouri tribe, though many other tribes are present in significant numbers through the province.
The name of the village the young men were killed in is Rifaat, and some of those killed belonged to the Rifaat tribe, according to a list of names of the victims this journalist was sent by a person from the area. She was told at least two belonged to a local tribal PMU from the area.
One source from the area claimed that AAH had wanted to set up a checkpoint nearby, and an argument broke out about the electricity they wanted from the village. Another claimed he had heard from locals that the AAH brigade had entered the village and locals thought they were IS and fired on them, but also that there had been an improvised explosive device attack on the AAH brigade recently.
In any case, both said the killings were in retaliation and were meant as a warning.
In July, a prominent parliament member from the region called for arming tribes to deal with continuing attacks in the Sunni area and a generalized lack of security. Others from the area had countered in interviews with WhatsApp with this journalist that fewer and not more groups with weapons in the area would work better toward this end. Though she has reported numerous times in recent years from the province, COVID-related restrictions have prevented her from traveling to the region in recent months.
In response to a question on whether non-local PMU units had been called upon to leave the province, Salahuddin Deputy Gov. Sheikh Ammar Hekmat told Al-Monitor that “some people want the forces to leave. But we need those extra forces to fight Islamic State sleeper cells coming from the western desert to the province frequently.”
Salahuddin “is a large province and borders five other provinces,” and the Oct. 17 “disgraceful incident that happened” is not actually representative of the non-local PMU, he said.
Hekmat stressed that “many of the [non-local PMU] forces have participated in fighting IS and maintaining security. They have sympathy for the people and provide services.”
The governor of the province pointedly noted in statements to the media that he did not consider this incident to bear the markings of a crime of terrorism committed by IS. By extension, many posited he was implying that the perpetrators were in fact armed groups not normally considered terrorists under Iraqi law.
He also noted that, according to “preliminary information,” the killers had been masked and “entered the area with the cooperation of the forces on the ground,” which includes the AAH-linked 42nd Brigade.
Some Iran-linked Shiite PMUs from more southern regions but that have forces deployed to the region instead blamed IS on their social media accounts. Kataib Hezbollah directly accused “some elements of trying to blame the PMU in order to expel it from the liberated provinces for political and electoral purposes” and called for a “full investigation.”
Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/10/iraq-salahuddin-sunni-pmu.html#ixzz6bMJIaHz6
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