Parliament chief says kidnapping of Sunnis in Babel “intolerable”

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units)

Baghdad ( Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jubouri urged security intervention late Saturday as tens of Sunni refugees were kidnapped from Babel province.

In a statement by his media office, Jubuori pointed to what he described as “attempts to impose a status quo and trespass the law” by parties which he did not name but said were “supposed to be operating under the umbrella of the constitution”.

Jubouri said kidnappers stormed civilians’ houses in Jurf al-Sakhr area in Babel and arrested dozens of civilians. He said the violations were “clear attempts to reverse security achievements…and stir sectarian tensions”.

Jubouri urged security services to free the abductees and to not to allow “unruly weapons” to “undermine Iraqi’s victory over Daesh (Islamic State) and the liberation of Mosul”.

Mostly-Sunni Kurf al-Sakhr fell to IS when the extremist group invaded several Iraqi cities in 2014. The area was retaken by the pro-government, Shia-led Popular Mobilization Forces which changed the area’s name to Jurf al-Nasr,a step which Sunni politicians feared as a signal of plots to induce demographic changes to the town.

Some Iraqi news websites had blamed the kidnappings in Babel on Hezbollah Battalions, a Shia paramilitary group that is part of the PMF and adopts an eponym for the famous Lebanese militia. The reports quoted sources saying that the number of those kidnapped from a refugees shelter in al-Musayyab area reached 65.

Since their formation in 2014 by an edict from Iraq’s top Shia clergy in 2014 to counter IS militants, Popular Mobilization Forces, which won state recognition in 2016 as national armed troops, have been surrounded with accusations of human rights violations that included sectarian-based detentions, tortures and deportations of Sunni citizens.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, under whose authority the PMFs operate, has regularly defended the militias against such accusations.

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