Iraq launches investigation into horrific Farhatiya killings
A horrific killing described by locals in Iraq as a "massacre" will be investigated by authorities, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi vowed during a visit to the Farhatiya area of the Salaheddin province in north-central Iraq, where the incident happened.
Early on Saturday, heavily armed men raided the village and kidnapped 12 men, believed to be related to each other, taking them to an unknown destination.
Later that day, eight bodies with signs of gunshots were found, while the fate of the remaining four men remains unknown. The victims were all male, with the oldest believed to be 59 years of age, and the youngest just 14.
Kadhemi, accompanied by senior officials, participated in a mourning reception on Sunday for the victims. He said in a statement that the rights of the victims "will be upheld through the law", and that he is personally following up on the investigations that have been launched.
The perpetrators will be "punished by the courts and not by acts of revenge", he said, adding that the criminals will not escape justice.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Al-Iraqiya TV, leader of the Popular Mobisation Front (PMF) Faleh Al-Fayyad said that innocent people were murdered in "the massacre" and that the PMF would "take all measures" to find the perpetrators.
"All parties, first among them the Popular Mobilisation Forces, want to find those who carried out this act, and we will take all measures against those who carried out, hid, or were complicit in it," Al-Fayyad said.
Relatives of the victims say they believe the attack was carried out by Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq militiamen, in revenge for the killing of a militia member by IS militants.
"Farhatiya and a string of villages in the Ishaqi area are under control of the militias and there is no army or police there. They are controlled by two armed groups – Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and the Peace Brigades. Farhatiya specifically is controlled by Asa’ib," a relative of the victims told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.
"The people of the area have complained to officials in the Salaheddin governorate headquarters about Asa’ib’s violations, including the tolls they enforce and the insults they direct at people, as well as their threats to kidnap women. Some families have been forced to stop their daughters going to school," he added.
Hassan Salem, an Iraqi MP who is also a leader of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, told The New Arab’s Arabic service that the militia was not responsible for the massacre and that there were “political factions” trying to pin the blame on it “for electoral reasons”.
PMF militias have been previously been accused of carrying out crimes of sectarian cleansing against local people in Salaheddin province by human rights groups, including field executions, torture of prisoners to death, and looting of deserted towns.
Salaheddin province, which is mostly Sunni, was formerly under the control of the Islamic State extremist group. All Iraqi territory formerly under IS control has been recaptured by the Iraqi government or the PMF, which is backed by Iran and consists mostly of Shia militias.
However, IS still operates in some areas of Iraq and the Farahatiya area of Salaheddin province is controlled by PMF militias.