U.N. blames Iran-backed militia for kidnappings, beheadings in Fallujah

Jul 07
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A woman, who has fled Fallujah, holds a baby. Reuters
A woman, who has fled Fallujah, holds a baby. Reuters

Asharq Al-Awsat
Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Geneva-The United Nations has pointed its finger at a Shi’ite militia backed by Iran that fought alongside Iraqi forces against ISIS, saying it may have kidnapped 900 civilians and executed at least 50, some by beheadings and torture.

The initial phase of Iraq’s vast offensive to retake the city of Fallujah from ISIS was supported by several Shi’ite militias, which raised fears of reprisals against the area’s Sunni Muslim population.

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said there was strong evidence that one group, Ketaeb Hezbollah, perpetrated atrocities after telling civilians that they were there to help.

“This appears to be the worst -– but far from the first -– such incident involving unofficial militias fighting alongside government forces,” Zeid said in statement.

He warned that with Iraq preparing another offensive against ISIS in their northern bastion Mosul, more Sunni civilians could face horrific violence as retribution for the crimes of ISIS.

Ketaeb Hezbollah fighters approached the village of Saqlawiyah near Fallujah — which lies only 50 kilometers west of Baghdad — on June 1, Zeid’s office said in a statement, citing witness testimony.

Some 8,000 civilians spotted the fighters as they were leaving Saqlawiyah amid the assault on ISIS.
The militia members “hailed them with loudspeakers, saying the villagers had nothing to fear from them,” according to the rights office.

“Witnesses said that hidden behind the Iraqi flags they saw the flags of a militia called Ketaeb Hezbollah,” the U.N. statement, which was carried by Agence France Presse, added.

Women and children were sent to a displaced persons camp while men and teenage boys were taken to a series of locations.

According to witnesses, those who asked for water “were dragged outside and shot, strangled, or severely beaten,” the U.N. said.

The abducted males were separated on June 5, with 605 men and boys taken to the displaced persons camp.

The whereabouts of a second group, with an estimated 900 people, is “unknown”, according to Zeid.

The rights chief said locals made a list of 643 missing men and boys and “49 others believed to have been summarily executed or tortured to death while in the initial custody of Ketaeb Hezbollah.”

Locals said 200 additional abductees have not been accounted for.

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