Iraqi militia leader calls for Sunni civilians living near 'IS hotspot' to be forcibly displaced

Iraqi militia leader calls for Sunni civilians living near 'IS hotspot' to be forcibly displaced
IS militants remain a threat in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province and areas north of Baghdad.
2 min read
03 May, 2021
ISIS militants have periodically resurfaced with attacks in Iraq [Getty]
A leading pro-Iran militia leader called for Sunni civilians to be forcibly displaced from parts of northern Iraq, following the resurgence of the Islamic State group (IS) in areas to the north of Baghdad and in Diyala province.

Abu Ali Al-Askari, a senior official within the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, said in a post on Telegram that "the security situation in Tarmiyah and Al-Mukhaisa village in Diyala will not stabilise without a reproduction of the Jurf Al-Nasr experiment", the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported.

Over 120,000 residents were forcibly displaced from the Sunni town of Jurf Al-Nasr, central Iraq, during the campaign against IS.

Iraqi security forces and the Iranian-backed, state-sponsored Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) - or Hashd Al-Shaabi - took control of the town.

The US claims the militia holds at least 1,700 prisoners in an illegal detention facility in the area.

An arrest warrant was issued against Al-Askari in January, after he made threats against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

Iraqi forces and the PMF have not allowed people to return displaced by an anti-IS campaign to return to their homes, warning of the danger of explosives and landmines.

Despite having been formally defeated and having lost control over their so-called "caliphate", IS militants have periodically resurfaced, staging attacks in Iraq's eastern Diyala province and north of Baghdad.

Read also: Iraqi Kurds one step closer to setting up special court for IS suspects

At least four soldiers were killed in a bomb attack on Saturday targeting a military vehicle in the Iraqi capital. Since the beginning of the year, IS have stepped up attacks in the area between Kirkuk, Saladin and Diyala, known by US forces as the "Triangle of Death".

Iraqi security forces arrested 11 suspected IS members in Diyala, the interior ministry said early Saturday, in the latest attempt to stem the insurgency.

Thousands of Sunnis are being prevented from returning home due to real or perceived links to IS.

Organisations, including Human Rights Watch, have warned against protracted displacement, saying the "massive social reengineering project to rebuild a shattered nation will come with costs".

Those who remain in refugee camps are vulnerable to abuse. Returning home in unsafe conditions poses a risk of revenge attacks from neighbours or recruitment into local armed groups, human rights organisations say.

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