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Anger after Erdogan describes Iraq's state-sanction militias as 'terrorists'

Erdogan's comments sparked anger in Baghdad [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 20 April, 2017

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Frictions continue between Ankara and Baghdad after Turkey's President Erdogan described Iraqi state militias as 'terrorist'.
A spat between Baghdad and Ankara took a new turn on Thursday, after Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Iraqi state-sponsored militias as "terrorist".

Hashd al-Shaabi - or the Popular Mobilisation Forces - are an umbrella of mostly Shia militia group, some of which were linked to the sectarian war that engulfed Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

After the Iraqi army were routed after the Islamic State group launched an offensive in northern Iraq in 2014, these militias were called to defend Baghdad from attack.

They have played a critical role in Baghdad's fight-back against the group but militants have also been accused of murdering and torturing civilians.

Erdogan told al-Jazeera that one should should not overlook the questionable characters inside the Hashd al-Shaabi, despite the significant role they played in the Iraqi offensive against IS.

"In the fight against Daesh (IS) in Iraq there is something striking. It's interesting, the Iraqi parliament says the Hashd al-Shaabi is not a terror group but what is interesting is who is behind this terror group," he said.

The comment sparked anger in Baghdad with Iraq's foreign ministry calling in the Turkish ambassador for a dress down.

"The foreign ministry has decided to summon the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to hand him a formal protest note regarding recent remarks by the Turkish president on the Hashd al-Shaabi," ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal said in a statement.

Turkey has been at loggerheads with the Baghdad government in recent years, particularly due to Ankara's influence in the mostly Sunni north of Iraq.

Angry protests have been held in Baghdad over a Turkish military bases in northern Iraq.

President Erdogan has also threatened Turkish military action against the Hashd al-Shaabi should they attack the Turkman-majority IS-held town of Tal Afar, close to Mosul.

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