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Iraqi police clash with pro-Iran militia in Baghdad

Pro-Iran militias often hold sway in Iraq [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 June, 2018

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Iraqi police and a pro-Iran militia have clashed in the capital Baghdad, as tensions between state security forces and irregulars rise.
Iraqi police battled a pro-Iran militia in the capital Baghdad on Wednesday, with security forces surrounding the headquarters of Hizballah Brigades, a member of the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary outfit.

Clashes between the two sides left three people injured, as security forces seek to rein in the Tehran-backed militia, which has grown in strength with the defeat of the Islamic State group.

Violence erupted when Iraqi security forces stopped a car, with a convoy of Hizballah Brigades fighters coming to the scene, an interior ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The men in five vehicles opened fire and the police responded. Two policemen were wounded and one of the members of Hizballah Brigades," he said. 

The police then quickly surrounded the militia headquarters "where the fighters had holed up", the official said, with the siege only lifted when the suspect was handed over to security forces.

The militia is also fighting in Syria, on the side of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, Iraq's biggest tribe, the al-Shammar, have called for the government to provide them with arms, following recent attacks in the area by IS.

A minbus driver from the tribe went missing Wadi al-Safa, Salaheddin province, on Tuesday, while 30 members of the tribe went missing when IS attacked al-Shammar villages in Jazira, a vast desert spanning from the Syria border to the west of Baghdad.

"We hold the security forces responsible for protecting civilians... failure to do so is a failure of duty," the tribe's leader, Sheikh Abdallah Hmeidi Ajeel al-Yawar, said in a statement late Tuesday.

"If the security forces are unable to control these areas inhabited by the Shammar and other tribes... the commander-in-chief (Prime Minister Haider Abadi) should open the door for volunteers to join the ranks of the army and form a brigade of sons of the region to protect themselves."

Iraq's army collapsed in the face of an IS offensive in 2014, with a call-to-arms to mostly Shia militias seeing a counter-offensive by government forces.

The Hashd al-Shaabi have been key to the government's defeat of IS, but fighters in the militia umbrella have been accused of murder and war crimes.

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