Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Paramilitary troops fighting the Islamic State alongside government forces will not be disbanded, and shall partake in the upcoming offensives targeting the group’s havens, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday.
“There is an insistence that everyone takes part in the battle for the liberation of Tal Afar,” Abadi said during a celebration event held by al-Abbass division, a component of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the Shia-dominated, Iran-backed paramilitary troops. He was referring to the western Nineveh town which remains a major Islamic State stronghold and which has been set as the target for future military operations.
“The Popular Mobilization is under the command of the clergy and the state. It belongs to Iraqis and it shall not be disbanded,” the prime minister said.
Abadi’s remarks came one day after Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr called to ensure the PMF were operating under the state’s oversight.
Delivering a speech to hundreds of thousands of his followers at al-Tahrir Square in Baghdad, al-Sadr urged to incorporate the mobilization forces within the official Iraqi army, and stressed on the importance of “placing weapons within the state’s hands exclusively”.
Popular mobilization troops were formed in 2014 as per an edict by Iraq’s top Shia clergy to combat IS militants. They won government recognition as a national force under the prime minister’s command, but have faced recurrent accusations of human rights breaches and stirred controversy over reports saying they crossed the borders into Syria to fight IS by the side of Syrian government troops.