MUQDADIYA, Iraq, Shia militiamen conducted reprisal attacks against local Sunnis in Muqdadiya, Iraq, following a double bombing Monday that killed at least 20 people.
The blasts occurred in a cafe and mainly killed and injured militiamen with the Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iran-trained Shia Muslim group fighting in Iraq against the Islamic State.
IS, which considers Shia Muslims heretics, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, which came the same day militants with the group attacked a shopping mallin a predominantly Shia area of Baghdad, killing 18 people.
A security source in nearby Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, told the BBC Shia militiamen rampaged through Muqdadiya following the twin bombings, summarily executing three Sunni men and blowing up seven houses in the al-Asiri district before setting fire to 36 shops in the main market and six Sunni mosques across the town.
The BBC quoted a senior member of the Hashid Shaabi as promising they would “punish the perpetrators of such acts,” saying “they reinforce the sectarian divide between the sons of the same country.”
The Hashid Shaabi came under similar scrutiny last year during the March and April drive to clear IS from the city of Tikrit, in Saladin province. The Shia militias were vital to Iraqi military success there — much like the U.S.-led coalition that conducted airstrikes on behalf of ground troops but denied working directly with the Iranian-linked force. However, the militiamen had to be withdrawn following reports of looting, arson and extrajudicial killings in the mainly Sunni city.
The Hashid Shaabi were reportedly held back from recent Iraqi military efforts in theliberation of Ramadi, capital of the predominantly Sunni Anbar province. Instead, Baghdad utilized regular Iraqi military units and pro-government Sunni fighters from groups such as the Albu Nimr tribe.
By Fred Lambert