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The Iraqi military has had little success battling ISIS, but according to a new report from Amnesty International, another armed force backed by the Iraqi government is apparently killing Sunni civilians as retaliation for ISIS attacks.
In a report released Tuesday, Amnesty International charged that government-backed Shiite militias have been abducting and killing Sunni Muslim civilians without any interference from the Iraqi government. The abductions increased after the Iraqi Army, on the run from ISIS, abandoned a third of the country and the Shiite militias filled the power void, it said.
Some of the kidnappings are done to extract ransom from families, a mirror of a fundraising method widely used by ISIS, but other abductions and killings have come within hours of ISIS attacks on Shiite civilians and neighborhoods. ISIS, a radical Sunni group, has also destroyed Shia holy sites.
“Shia militias,” said the report, “have been taking advantage of the atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity to abduct and kill Sunni men, seemingly in reprisal or revenge for [ISIS] attacks and at times also to extort money from the families of those they have abducted.”
On June 6, according to interviews conducted by Amnesty, the day after an ISIS incursion into Samarra, 37 Sunni men were abducted and killed from the city’s eastern neighborhoods.
In Kirkuk on Aug. 24, the day after a triple bomb attack by ISIS, three young Sunni men were abducted. They were later found shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs. the report said.
“These militias, often armed and backed by the government of Iraq,” said the report, “continue to operate with varying degrees of cooperation from government forces -- ranging from tacit consent to coordinated, or even joint, operations.”
“For these reasons, Amnesty International holds the government of Iraq largely responsible for the serious human rights abuses, including war crimes, committed by these militias.”