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The New Arab

Iraq integrating controversial Shia militias into official armed forces

The Hashd al-Shaabi was established in 2014 to combat IS [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 July, 2016

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Iraq will pay Iran-backed Shia militia fighters monthly salaries and permit them to use military bases in a bid to incorporate the controversial paramilitary force into the armed forces.

Iraq will pay Iran-backed Shia militia fighters monthly salaries and permit them to use military bases in a bid to incorporate the controversial paramilitary force into the armed forces, according to Iraqi officials.

"The government will pay the around 80-thousand-strong Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) forces fixed monthly salaries of 910,000 Iraqi dinars ($800)," government sources told The New Arab on Thursday.

"They will be allowed to share official Iraqi military bases, move under the command of the commander in chief and retain the heavy weaponry in their possession."

The sources added that members of the militias will be subject to the military justice system.

National security adviser, Faleh al-Fayadh, will head the newly incorporated forces, which will resemble Iran's Revolutionary Guard, according to the sources.

This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced that the umbrella group of Shia militias would be integrated into the Iraqi armed forces as a counter-terrorism force.

The Shia militia has been accused of committing serious abuses against Sunnis in cities recently retaken from IS.
     
      The militias have been accused of carrying out abuses [Getty]

Set up in mid-2014, the Hashd al-Shaabi is made up of Shia volunteer soldiers who have fought alongside the Iraqi military to retake Iraqi cities from the Islamic State group [IS].

The Shia militia has been accused of committing serious abuses against Sunnis in cities recently retaken from IS.

Human rights groups have alleged that Hashd al-Shaabi troops committed vast human rights abuses during the assault on Fallujah, including carrying out summary executions of civilians or torturing and humiliating other residents.

Military analyst Hatem al-Falahi told The New Arab: "Iraq has been up against a replica of the Republican Guard, which was independent from military and police forces during the Saddam Hussein era. It was allowed to operate as it wanted not under the regulations of the constitution and law."

"We have to ask where will the Sunnis, Kurds and other groups be within this force and whether it will be a purely sectarian regiment,"

"There are many indications that this is a state within the state, such as the incidents during the battle for Fallujah and the militia statements that contradict the official government line," Falahi added.

Hashd al-Shaabi leader, Jaafar Redha, said that Abadi's announcement was for "organisational proposes".

"The talk about the Hashd al-Shaabi gaining official status is merely twisting words. The group was formed by a fatwa from (Top Shia cleric) Sistani and it can only be disbanded through another fatwa."

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