Iraqi PM promises to prevent rights violations by Shiite militia

Islamic Extremism

Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization units patrol the streets in Tikrit on April 4, 2015 after a statement by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordering Iraqi forces to oppose vandalism in the city and protect civilians. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi vowed Monday to protect the people living in Islamic State-controlled territories from any retribution or rights violations when their lands are retaken by government forces.

Speaking in Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, the prime minister pledged that the “properties and rights” of local residents would be respected once ISIL militants were driven out.

“We assure the people of Anbar and Ninevah provinces and other territories under IS control that we do respect the people and will not tolerate any violations against their properties, rights and souls,” al-Abadi said.

Volunteer Shiite militiamen, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, have fought alongside Iraqi army troops. They are credited with playing a crucial role in pushing ISIL militants out of Tikrit and other cities. These Iranian-backed Shiite militias have also been accused of looting and vandalizing the Sunni towns they have retaken.

Al-Abadi admitted that dozens of houses and shops were burned in Tikrit and that several people were arrested. They now await trial over violations committed there.

Many Tikrit residents expect the government offensive to now target either Anbar province or Ninevah province, home to Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. This is expected as the next phase of the effort to push back ISIL. Some Sunni residents remain fearful that a government victory would simply trade the harsh rule of the Islamic militants for vengeance from undisciplined Shiite militiamen.

The Islamic State group controls about a third of northern and western Iraq.

In Monday’s violence, police and hospital officials said three people were killed and 17 others were wounded in two separate bombings targeting public spaces in Baghdad.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

This story was compiled with information from the Associated Press.