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 Updated: June 16, 2015

Iraqi Sunnis join Shia militias to fight IS militants

By: News Desk

BAGHDAD, Iraq: Thousands of Sunni Muslim tribesmen have joined the Shia armed factions which are fighting militant ISIS in the Sunni areas to get the required moral and logistical support to liberate their areas.

"Figures who are playing the sectarian card and insist on refusing to cooperate with what they call the Shia militias, currently are living in Arbil, Dubai and Amman hotels, while our children and our women have been dying every day in tents set up for them in the desert," said Mohammed, an Iraqi Sunni Muslim commander who is fighting IS in Anbar alongside Kataib Hezbollah, a prominent Shia militia.

He further said: "Let them bring their families to live with our families in the tents and then we will talk."

Mohammed, who declined to use his full name for sensitivity, spoke to Middle East Eye News agency as he was following the paper work of his fighters with the Iraqi federal authorities in Baghdad.

A third of the Iraqi territories in the Sunni-dominated north and western parts of the country fell into the hands of IS's militants last summer.

Since then, Shia militias including Badr Organisation, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah-Iraq have been representing the backbone of the Popular Mobilisation force which was formed by the Iraqi government last June after the fatwa of Ayatullah Sistani.

The Popular Mobilisation consists of prominent Shia militias in addition to all the new Shiiite and multi-sectarian armed formations.

Many new Sunni battalions, each one consisting of 250-600 fighters, have been formed in the Sunni areas in Diyala province east of Baghdad, the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar and Salahudeen province, the home town of the former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.

These battalions have linked to Badr, Kataib Hezbollah-Iraq, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, al-Nujabaa (a split group of Asaib), Jund al-Imam (a new Shia militia formed last year), Ali al-Akbar Bregaid (a new Shiiite militia formed a few months ago), and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (a new Shia militia).

"From the beginning we thought there was no way to liberate our lands, but by getting the help of Iraqis, not relying on the United States nor any other countries, so we joined the Popular Mobilisation," Khalid Abdullah, the commander of Asaib Ahl al-Haq Sunni Battalion in Salahudeen told MEE by phone.

"Early this year, we joined Asaib Ahl al-Haq and since then we have been fighting, shoulder by shoulder to liberate our areas they unconditionally armed, equipped and trained my 600 fighters," Abdullah said.

Merging the small, new armed groups, regardless of their affiliations, with a prominent Shia militia such as Badr, Asaib or Kataib gives their fighters access to medium and light weapons and equipment without being subject to the slow and routine procedures which are adopted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, Sunni commanders said.

The Iraqi government has been struggling since last year to combat the militant organisation which declared an Islamic caliphate stretching across the Syrian and Iraqi territories and still controls the Iraqi city of Mosul, most of the towns and cities of Anbar and large parts of Salahudeen and Kirkuk provinces.

"We believe that these (Sunni) areas have to be governed by its people, so we are not interested to make any demographic changes or drive Sunnis away from their areas," Taha Diraa, a leader of the National Alliance, the biggest Shia political bloc told MEE News agency.

"All what we are interested in now is building a mutual trust with them (Sunnis) which would produce, in the long term, a national project," Diraa said.


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