Iraqi mili­tias start fight­ing back against IS in Ra­madi

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

About 3,000 mili­tia mem­bers in Iraq have be­gun mov­ing against the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants af­ter the fall of the city of Ra­madi last week, of­fi­cials say.

The pro-gov­ern­ment forces say they have re­taken Husayba, east of Ra­madi.

Ra­madi - the cap­i­tal of An­bar prov­ince - is only 110km (70 miles) west of Bagh­dad. Its fall was seen as a ma­jor em­bar­rass­ment for the gov­ern­ment.

About 500 peo­ple died in the city, and more than 40,000 - a third of the pop­u­la­tion - have fled.

It looks very much as though the op­er­a­tion which has be­gun near Ra­madi in An­bar prov­ince is be­ing car­ried out with­out much in­volve­ment by the Iraqi army. Last week­end, 200 Is­lamic State fighters cap­tured Ra­madi from 10 times that num­ber of Iraqi army sol­diers.

Mil­i­tary ob­servers here main­tain that the army sim­ply doesn't have the de­ter­mi­na­tion to match the com­mit­ment of the Is­lamic State, and that the so-called Popular Mo­bil­i­sa­tion mili­tias are the only ones with the nec­es­sary drive and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

But there's a prob­lem, though. The ma­jor­ity of the vol­un­teers are Shia Mus­lims, and there has been anx­i­ety about us­ing them in An­bar prov­ince, which is over­whelm­ingly Sunni. But the groups do con­tain Sunni fighters as well, and the gov­ern­ment main­tains they op­er­ate un­der strict con­trol.

'Reprisals, shoot­ings'

The Ira­nian-backed Shia mili­tias of the Popular Mo­bil­i­sa­tion (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) launched their op­er­a­tion out of the Iraqi air­base at Hab­baniya, about 20 miles (30km) from Ra­madi.

A Sunni tribal leader in An- bar, Sheikh Rafia Ab­delka­rim al-Fah­dawi, told AFP news agency that his vol­un­teers had also been de­ployed - in ad­di­tion to po­lice, Spe­cial Forces and army troops.

Iraqi po­lice spokes­men told news agen­cies that IS mil­i­tants had been driven from Husayba and it was now un­der the con­trol of pro-gov­ern­ment forces.

"Ra­madi's fall was a mas­sive blow to the Iraqi army, to the Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi and to the US, which had en­cour­aged his pol­icy of rely- ing on the regular armed forces and po­lice and rul­ing out a role for the mili­tias," says the BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut.

The Shia mili­tias played a key role in re-cap­tur­ing an­other mainly Sunni pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, Tikrit, from IS at the end of March.

An­bar prov­ince cov­ers a vast stretch of the coun­try west from Bagh­dad to the Syr­ian bor­der, and con­tains key roads that link Iraq to both Syria and Jor­dan.

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