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US announces sanctions on Iranian-linked militia leaders in Iraq

Last month Iraq's government moved to control powerful Iran-backed militias in the country. [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 July, 2019

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US Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the Washington is imposing sanctions on the leaders of two Iranian-linked militia groups in Iraq.

US Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the United States is imposing sanctions on the leaders of two Iranian-linked militia groups in Iraq.

"Let me be clear, the United States will not stand idly while Iranian-backed militias spread terror," Pence told a high-level meeting on religious freedom, without naming the individuals targeted.

The two militia leaders, Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado - one of whom is Christian and the other a member of the Shabak minority - were both sanctioned over "serious human rights abuse" by them or their organisations, the US Treasury Department announced.

Both were sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act.

"The United States is taking action against four individuals in Iraq implicated in serious human rights abuse or corruption," said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

"We will continue to hold accountable persons associated with serious human rights abuse, including persecution of religious minorities, and corrupt officials who exploit their positions of public trust to line their pockets and hoard power at the expense of their citizens."

Kildani is the leader of the 50th Brigade militia and was shown cutting off the ear of a handcuffed detainee in a video circulating in Iraq last year, the Treasury said.

Qado is the leader of the 30th Brigade militia which engaged in extortion, illegal arrests, and kidnappings, it added.

Two former Iraqi governors, Nawfal Hammadi Al Sultan and Ahmed Al Jubouri, were also targeted under the sanctions.

Last month Iraq's government moved to control powerful Iran-backed militias in the country, placing them under the full command of the Iraqi armed forces.

The militias fall under the umbrella of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, a collection of mostly Shiite militias that fought the Islamic State group and were incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces in 2016.

Some of the mainly Shiite Iran-backed militias rose to prominence after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, when they fought US occupation of the country.

In more recent years, the militias fought alongside US-backed Iraqi troops against IS militants, gaining outsized influence and power along the way.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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