One of the major Shi’ite militias on the rise in Iraq, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, has engaged in a major overnight gunbattle with police in the capital city of Baghdad after it was discovered they kidnapped the cousin of Deputy Premier Roz Nuri Shaways.
According to police Shaways’ cousin, a businesswoman from the southern part of the capital, came running up to a police checkpoint, claiming she’d escaped from a warehouse where she was being held by the militia, which sought to ransom her for $1.66 million.
Police went to the warehouse and found what they thought was a small extortion gang, but it was quickly reinforced by the militia itself, with large numbers of fighters arriving and a battle quickly erupting. Four police were wounded in clashes, and they had to smash an armored personnel carrier through a militia roadblock for reinforcements.
Asaid Ahl al-Haq has been fighting alongside Iraqi forces against ISIS since Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s call to arms, and the Iraqi government has allowed it and other major militias a lot of leeway in extralegal operations in the country because they’ve proven so important to the war.
This underscores a long-term problem Iraq is going to be facing, whether or not they ever defeat ISIS however, as the militias are growing in power and are by and large above the law, pushing harshly against Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities in extortion schemes like this one, and adding to the sectarian unrest nationwide.
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