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Iraqi militias transformed town into 'secret prison', says MP

Pro-government militias took back the town from IS in October 2014 [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 September, 2016

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An Iraqi MP has claimed that a depopulated town formerly under IS control has been converted into a "secret prison" holding thousands of detainees.

An Iraqi member of parliament has claimed that a depopulated town formerly under Islamic State group [IS] control has been converted into a "secret prison" holding thousands of detainees.

Ahmad al-Salmani from the Sunni-led Union of Forces released an online statement on Friday, accusing pro-government militias of "hijacking" the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, 60 kilometres southwest of Baghdad, to hold prisoners.

Jurf al-Sakhar, or "rocky bank," became known as Jurf al-Nasr, or "victory bank" after it was taken back from IS in October 2014 in the first major victory for the Shia militias against the extremist group.

Following the offensive dubbed "Operation Ashura", local authorities decided to put the town on lockdown to clear it of IEDs and relocate the town's residents.

"Jurf al-Sakhar has been taken over and turned into a secret prison, which is used by some armed militias to carry out their nefarious activities," Salmani's statement read.

"There is a lot of evidence that around 3,000 displaced people from Anbar province are being held prisoner in the town. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has to explain why the residents of the town have not been allowed to return two years after it was liberated."

     
      Salmani is a member of the Sunni-led Union of Forces [Facebook]

Salmani added that the town has been largely destroyed with homes burnt down and orchards bulldozed.

The government-backed Shia militias have recently been accused of committing serious abuses and reprisal attacks against Sunnis thought to belong or to be sympathetic to IS in cities recently retaken from the jihadists.

In May, Amnesty International said that more than 1,000 detainees, including some as young as 15, were being held without charge in horrendous conditions at makeshift holding centres in Anbar province.

Local elder from Jurf al-Sakhar, Mansour al-Janabi, claimed that the government-backed militias have cleansed the town of its Sunni population.

"Sectarian cleansing has taken place in Jurf al-Sakhar. The original residents of the town have been prevented from moving back, while families of the militiamen have moved into the abandoned homes," Janabi told The New Arab.

"The Janabi tribe, who make up the majority of the town's population, have all been forced to leave and relocate elsewhere in the country because of fears they will be arrested if they try to come back."

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