Iraqi Shia militias take Sunni hostages for prisoner swap

Iraqi Shia militias take Sunni hostages for prisoner swap
3 min read
25 March, 2015
Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation forces have taken over 120 Sunni civilians captive to secure the release of prisoners held by the Islamic State group.
The militias demanded increased pressure on the IS to release prisoners [Haidar al-Hamdani/AFP]

Iraqi tribal chiefs and leaders of Popular Mobilisation forces Wednesday started a first round of negotiations for the release of 120 citizens - including women and children -who were kidnapped more than two weeks ago.

The captives were taken in an apparent bid to force a prisoner exchange with the Islamic State group, IS, who is understood to be holding a number of prisoners of its own.

A tribal chief from Salah ad-Din Governorate, who asked to remain anonymous, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the Popular Mobilisation millitias had abducted 120 people from the town of Dawr including four entire families.

"The militias demanded - in return for releasing the civilians - that the Islamic State group (IS) release the detainees of Camp Speicher still in its custody who it has not killed yet."

According to the tribal chief, the captives were being held in a military base near Tikrit, where fighting between Iraqi government forces, the Mobilisation militias and IS continues for control.

"The information we have received indicates that they are in a miserable condition, that they receive food only once a day, and that the men are tortured," said the tribal chief. He explained that the negotiations are taking place "separate from the government".

The government and the militias lump the Sunnis together with the IS, not knowing that the Sunnis were its first victims.
- Sunni tribal leader.

On the other side, a source close to the Popular Mobilisation militias said that "the release of the abductees is contingent upon IS releasing those in its custody."

The source demanded "increased pressure on the organisation to implement the demands of the Popular Mobilisation."

Speaking to al-Araby al-Jadeed, the source added: "The tribes of Salah ad Din served as a breeding ground for terrorism throughout the past years, and they should pay the price. Legal measures are no longer useful, and we will do it our way."

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, a leader of the Popular Movement in Iraq, a Sunni political movement, however said the government and aparliament would be pressuing the Popular Mobilisation militias to release their prisoners without any quid pro quo.

"The tribes have no authority over the IS to have it release those in its custody. Besides, it is not their fault."

"What is happening in Iraq is the beginning of more catastrophes, and there is no positive progress," abdullah warned. "The government sought the help of gangs and militias that are no less criminal than IS. Iraq will eventually become hostage to actions and reactions between the two sides in the absence of Arab and Western intervention to block Iran's agenda in Iraq."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.