In the wake of an offensive to liberate the central Iraqi town of Amerli from the Islamic State last summer, Shiite militias raided 30 villages in the surrounding area in reprisal attacks against Sunnis. The militias looted, burned thousands of buildings, and abducted at least 11 people, according to Human Rights Watch. The US military provided air support to Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Shiite militas during the initial fighting against the Islamic State in Amerli.
“After US air strikes and Iraqi fighters broke the siege [of Amerli], pro-government militias began to raid Sunni and mixed Sunni villages in the areas surrounding Amerli,” HRW stated in a report, titled After Liberation Came Destruction, which was released today.
“They [Shiite militias] raided and looted residential and commercial properties, later burning down or blowing up thousands of buildings in more than 30 villages” in Salahaddin province, the reported continued.
HRW was able to confirm that at least 3,200 building were torched during the “militias’ campaign of destruction” after Amerli was liberated on Sept. 1, 2014. The militias looted and burned or bombed buildings in September and “through the months of October, November and possibly December.”
“The widespread burning of civilian homes by the militia groups in areas under their control appeared to have had no clear military objective and to represent collective punishment against residents of local Sunni villages,” HRW stated.
The militias that were involved in the fighting in Amerli included Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), Asiab al Haq (League of the Righteous), Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), and the Badr Organization. Each of these militias, which operate under the aegis of the Popular Mobilization Committee, or Hashid Shaabi, are closely tied to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.