News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqIraq Shia militia 'murdered prisoners'

Iraq Shia militia ‘murdered prisoners’


Telegraph: Abdullah Hamid al-Hayali is a man waging a campaign that he knows could see him murdered. The mayor of the Iraqi town of Baquba has taken it upon himself to reveal the truth about the fate of 46 prisoners, his nephew among them, who were killed in their cells, less than two miles from his home by Iran-backed militiamenGovernment officials have pinned the blame for the deaths on the Sunni militants.

Mayor of Iraqi town of Baquba claims 46 prisoners were shot dead by Shia militia – not killed by insurgent mortar as Maliki government claims 

The Telegraph

By Ruth Sherlock, Baquba

Abdullah Hamid al-Hayali is a man waging a campaign that he knows could see him murdered.

The mayor of the Iraqi town of Baquba has taken it upon himself to reveal the truth about the fate of 46 prisoners, his nephew among them, who were killed in their cells, less than two miles from his home. 

Government officials have pinned the blame for the deaths on the Sunni militants who swept through northern Iraq last month, claiming that an insurgent mortar destroyed the police station in which the prisoners were held. 

 But the photographs of the dead on Mr Hayali’s phone, plus the thick pile of hospital death certificates that sit on his lap, tell a much darker story: in which security forces from Iraq’s Shia government, fearing the prisoners would join the jihadists should they come to Baquba, massacred the inmates in their cells.

The pictures show that far from dying from mortar fire, most were killed at close range with a bullet to the head.

“They murdered the prisoners in their cells,” said Mr Hayali. “There were two rooms full of men: in one they put the prisoners in a line and shot them in the head. They sprayed the other cell with bullets and then they threw in hand grenades.”

As mayor, Mr Hayali is one of the most powerful Sunnis in Baquba, an ethnically mixed town where Sunnis hold a narrow majority. Now, though, he lives in fear of his life for speaking out, thanks to the presence of the ruthless Shia militias that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, has brought in to bolster the presence of its troops.

With the his own security forces weak and poorly trained, Mr Maliki has had little choice but to rope in the services of Shia paramilitaries, some of whom are now on the front lines of the battle against the jihadist Islamic State. 

But the result is the proliferation of a sectarian force, whose violent excesses Mr Maliki cannot stop. According to Amnesty International, such militias have colluded with Iraqi security forces to commit massacres not just in Baquba but also in Mosul and Tal Afar.

In Baquba, Mr Hayali claims to know the names of the police commander who oversaw the killings in town’s al-Wahdeh police station. The town’s governor, Amer al-Mujamai, who is backing the mayor’s campaign to speak out over what happened, told The Telegraph he had written to Mr Maliki appealing for the police commander to be decommissioned, but had had no reply.

The Telegraph went undercover to reach Baquba, a town located one hour north of Baghdad, dressing in local dress to pass through five checkpoints run by police who have a vested interest in stopping journalists investigating the killings.

Located on the edge of territory controlled by insurgents, the city is now tense, with the streets almost empty of civilians. Heavily-armed Shia militiamen patrol in pickup trucks.

Mr Hayali said that on the evening of June 16, a group of insurgents had entered the town and attacked the police station, only to be then repelled by militiamen from the Iran-backed League of the Righteous, one of the most powerful Shia fighting groups.

Under the watchful gaze of the police commander, the militiamen then allegedly went on a killing spree of their own. Mr Hayali held up a photograph of Yasser Ali Ahmed, 22, his nephew, half in a body bag. He had been taken to the police station shortly before to be interrogated. “They told him that I was being ‘loose with my tongue’, in speaking out against the presence of militias in Baquba,” Mr Hayali said. “They tortured him: beat him with electric cables and ripped off his nails, all just to get to me.”

Most of the other prisoners, he claimed, had been held in the police station for minor offences, such as failing to pay traffic fines, and some were not meant to be there at all.

“Seven of the men had finished their sentences but the police were keeping them in the jail until they paid a bribe to be released,” said Mr Hayali.

There was originally one survivor of the massacre, Ahmed Zaidan, who was badly wounded but still alive when Mr Hayali visited him in the hospital to gather evidence of the killings.

Less than two hours later however, Mr Zaidan was kidnapped. Spirited from his bed, he was killed and his body was dumped behind the hospital.

Mr Mujamai and Mr Hayali said they have both received death threats, warning them not to talk about the massacre. But the attacks by the government are turning local residents ever more against Mr Maliki.

“People are not naturally inclined to support the Islamic State. We are moderate Sunnis,” said Mr Hayali. “But the police and Shia militias kidnapping, arresting, and killing is making a lot of people wish the Islamic State would enter and protect them.”


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