Throughout Iraq’s war aimed at recovering Sunni cities from ISIS have everywhere and always involved the substantial use of Shi’ite militias both in fighting and in the post-‘liberation’ occupation of the cities. This has repeatedly fueled complaints about the militias engaging in sectarian violence, kidnappings, revenge killings, and just plain robbery of Sunnis.
The Iraqi government went from denying that such abuse was taking place to promising to reign it in, though in practice promises to keep the militias away from the big cities they attack never pan out. In Mosul too, the militias are increasingly showing up.
Roads around the city, Iraq’s second largest, are increasingly surrounded by militia-run checkpoints, and that increasingly visible show of control over the city’s surroundings has many of the local Sunnis, particularly those trying to flee the ongoing war, worried that the same revenge attacks that have happened everywhere else are soon to follow.
So far, the checkpoints are mostly just harassing civilians trying to flee the area, with militia members claiming they are trying to prevent ISIS fighters from fleeing. Oftentimes, however, the militias haven’t been too picky on the distinction between ISIS and Sunni civilians, and that could well be a long-term problem for the area around Mosul, one that will likely last long after the ISIS war itself.
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