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Iraq speaker urges action over abuses by government forces against civilians in Fallujah

Salim Al Juburi cited reports of mistreatment by members of the federal police and the Shiite majority Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces in the battle for the ISIL-held city.
Iraqi parliament speaker Salim Al Juburi warned before the launch of operations to retake Fallujah of the risks of reprisals against the local population. Mohammed Ameen, Files/Reuters
Iraqi parliament speaker Salim Al Juburi warned before the launch of operations to retake Fallujah of the risks of reprisals against the local population. Mohammed Ameen, Files/Reuters

BAGHDAD // Iraqi parliament speaker Salim Al Juburi said on Thursday he was concerned over reports of abuses committed by government forces against civilians during the current operation to retake Fallujah.

He cited reports of mistreatment of civilians by members of the federal police and the Shiite majority Hashed Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces and urged prime minister Haider Al Abadi to enforce discipline among government ranks.

There is “information indicating that some violations were carried out by some members of the federal police and some volunteers against civilians”, his office said.

“These actions are a disservice to the sacrifices ... made by our heroic security forces.”

His office did not provide details on the alleged abuses but urged Mr Al Abadi to “look into these acts and deal with them in a strict and expeditious way”.

Mr Al Juburi, a Sunni politician, warned before the launch of operations to retake Fallujah of the risks of reprisals against the local population.

The Hashed Al Shaabi is an umbrella organisation that includes Sunni tribal fighters but is dominated by powerful Tehran-backed Shiite militias.

It is nominally under Mr Al Abadi’s authority but some of its most powerful groups answer directly to Iran.

Those groups have been repeatedly accused of fuelling sectarianism and their involvement in the battle for Fallujah – a Sunni majority city near Baghdad that was seized by ISIL in 2014 – was seen as potentially explosive.

Mr Al Abadi has also warned that any whiff of sectarian violence by anti-ISIL forces against the local population risks inflaming an already precarious national climate and would tarnish military victories in Fallujah.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, has issued guidelines intended as a form of code of conduct for forces fighting ISIL and aimed at curbing abuses.

Meanwhile, Mr Al Abadi appealed to politicians to “freeze” their wrangling over his anti-corruption reforms and unite behind the army as it battles the extremist group in Fallujah.

Grappling with a political crisis since February, the prime minister has been unable to rally the main blocs in parliament to back an anti-corruption plan that includes a cabinet reshuffle.

He ordered the offensive on Fallujah on May 22, after the political crisis degenerated into deadly street violence in and near to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, and a series of ISIL-claimed bombings hit Shiite districts of the city.

“I appeal [to the politicians] to freeze all differences until the land is freed,” he said on state television late on Wednesday during a visit to the army’s frontline near Fallujah.

“Daesh is the ultimate corruption and whoever prevents us from fighting Daesh is corrupt,” he added.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: June 2, 2016 04:00 AM

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