Saudi Arabia urges militias to stay out of Mosul

Saudi Arabia urges militias to stay out of Mosul
Riyadh has told the Iraqi government to keep Shia militias out of Mosul, fearing a repeat of atrocities against Sunni residents witnessed after Fallujah's liberation from Islamic State group militants
3 min read
18 October, 2016
Iran-backed Shia militias have been accused of human rights abuses [AFP]
Saudi Arabia has urged the Iraqi government to keep Shia militias out of the battle to liberate Mosul from Islamic State group control, fearing "mass atrocities" of Sunni civilians.

The kingdom's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir warned against a repeat of abuses in Fallujah, which militants were ousted from in June, and followed a wave of beatings and killings by pro-government figthers.

"We oppose any kind of involvement by the Shia militias," The Guardian newspaper reported Jubeir as saying at a press conference in London.

"When they went into Fallujah they committed mass atrocities, including a mass grave of 400 people."

The long-awaited offensive on Mosul - IS' last bastion in Iraq and the largest city in its self-described "caliphate" - began on Sunday.

Under a US-crafted plans for the offensive, Shia militias are to stop short of entering Mosul itself, which is mostly Sunni.

Instead Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga and local tribal fighters are planned continue the battle, with the aim of minimising sectarian conflict in the aftermath.

The Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, are an Iraqi government-backed organisation of mainly Shia Muslim militias formed in June 2014. This came in response to the collapse of the army and threat posed by the expansion of IS.

Some militias within the group
recieve direct support from Iran - Saudi Arabia's bitter rival.

The group has been accused of human rights abuses against Sunni populations liberated from IS rule.

The UK also warned last month against a Shia militia role in Mosul for fear of revenge attacks against residents.

Saudi Arabia's Jubeir hold similar fears: "If they go into Mosul which is many times larger than Fallujah I would expect the negative reaction will be tremendous and if there are mass killings, it could end up being a bonanza for violent extremists, and recruitment for Daesh [IS].

"It could add fuel to the sectarian fires raging in the region and so we have urged the Iraqi government not to use the Shia militias. That is the greatest danger that we see.

"We actually told them to disband them, and yet they have not. They are being managed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They are brutal."

He added that although there had been reassurances from the Iraqi government about the deployment of Shia militias, he was unsure the Iraqi government was fully in control and that the militias may act independently.

Some 30,000 pro-Baghdad forces are leading the offensive, backed by air and ground support from a 60-nation US-led coalition, in what is expected to be a long and complex assault on IS' last major Iraqi stronghold.