Widespread looting was reported within hours of the recapture of an Iraqi city from Islamic State militants by U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi security forces and Iran-backed, Shiite militias earlier this week.
In Tikrit, 110 miles northwest of Baghdad, militiamen raided homes and businesses. They graffitied in the Iranian language of Farsi on walls, rather than in Iraq’s language of Arabic, indicating Tehran’s presence on the ground. The graffiti also read, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” wrote Washington Post correspondent, Loveday Morris.
Amnesty International announced it will investigate reports that “scores of residents have been seized early last month and not heard of since, and that residents’ homes and businesses have been blown up or burned down after having been looted by militias.”
Nearly 2/3 of the forces who launched the offensive to retake Tikrit were believed to be members of Iranian proxies. The operation to oust the Islamic State was launched in early March without notifying U.S. military commanders and stalled after three weeks.
The Iraqi government requested U.S. airstrikes after the offensive stalled. President Obama agreed on the condition Shiite militias would withdraw and allow Iraqi security forces to take the lead. The U.S. wants to avoid appearing to provide air support for Iranian proxies, known to perpetrate acts of sectarian violence, summary executions and kidnappings.
This is not the first time U.S. airstrikes have aided the liberation of an Iraqi city from the Islamic State, only for Iran-backed, Shiite militias to raid and loot the surrounding area, specifically targeting Sunni Muslims.
Amerli, in northeastern Iraq, was liberated from the Sunni terrorist group in August of 2014. Shiite militias exploited the instability by raiding 30 villages in the area, looting buildings and burning them to the ground. (RELATED: Rampage In Iraqi Village Shows Cracks In US Middle East Policy)
Shiite militias are placing imams on the front line, tasked with stoking “the religious passions that inspired the volunteers to join the fight — while also working to keep them in line,” according to BuzzFeed. They allege religious devotion makes them more effective against the Islamic State than the Iraqi military.
The Iraqi government claimed victory over the Islamic State in Tikrit Wednesday. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and leaders from the Iraqi military and Shiite militias paraded through the city waving an Iraqi flag. Following reports of looting, Abadi said perpetrators will be arrested by the military and prosecuted.
A Shiite militiaman is claiming U.S. airstrikes had nothing to do with the liberation of Tikrit, telling The New York Times,”This is the victory of Hadi al-Ameri and God,” referring to the leader of the umbrella organization over pro-Iran, Shiite militias. These militias have even accused America of dropping supplies to the Islamic State.
Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, was taken by the terrorist organization nearly 10 months ago.
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