Monday 17th Jun 2019 

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News: Terrorism and fundamentalism

Iraq: Threat of Iran-linked militias highlighted by Monday shootout in Baghdad

Qais Al Khaz’ali, leader of  Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq with Qassem Suleimani

A shoot out in the Iraqi capital once again highlighted the growing threat of a rapidly growing galaxy of ‘Shiite militias’ affiliated with the Iranian regime.

The gunfight early on Monday pitted Iraqi police against the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the most aggressive of the para-military groups, holding a Kurdish woman related to one of a country's deputy prime minister, police and army officers told AFP.

Sara Hamid Niran was kidnapped in the port city of Basra last month and transferred to a building in Baghdad's central Karrada district.

However “She escaped when she managed to pry a small window open with a spoon and clambered into the house next door", a police officer said.

Officers said Asaib Ahl al-Haq was demanding a ransom of around $1.66m to free her.

A police officer told AFP they initially thought that the kidnappers were an extortion gang but by the time reinforcements arrived, a large number of militiamen showed up telling the policemen should hand back the hostage or would all be killed.

Police had to send in an armoured personnel carrier to smash through the militia's roadblock and were met with a deluge of gunfire. In the intense shootout, four policemen were wounded.

Amnesty International said in a report on October 14: “Shi’a militias, supported and armed by the government of Iraq, have abducted and killed scores of Sunni civilians in recent months and enjoy total impunity for these war crimes.”
Report titled “Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq” provides harrowing details of sectarian attacks carried out by increasingly powerful Shi’a militias.

“By granting its blessing to militias who routinely commit such abhorrent abuses, the Iraqi government is sanctioning war crimes and fuelling a dangerous cycle of sectarian violence that is tearing the country apart. Iraqi government support for militia rule must end now,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.

"The fate of many of those abducted by Shi'a militias weeks and months ago remains unknown. Some captives were killed even after their families had paid ransoms of $80,000 and more to secure their release."

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