Iraqi police accuses al Sadr militia of four-year killing spree
Police on Thursday accused the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr of carrying out a four-year killing spree in Iraq's central city of Karbala which left hundreds dead. The killings and other gross human rights violations were carried out by the militiamen in their bid to impose Sharia law on the people of Karbala, the police directorate of Karbala province said in a statement, cited by AFP.
"The Mahdi Army murdered and tortured and kidnapped people under Sharia law," the statement said. "They are the cause of the deaths of hundreds of people. They also committed numerous violations of human rights in Karbala."
The statement marks the first time the Iraqi authorities have directly accused Iraq's most powerful Shiite militia of carrying out killings.
"Gunmen and outlawed armed groups represented by the Mahdi Army militia caused chaos and confusion in (Karbala) province and perpetrated many human rights violations," the police statement said.
"This militia tried to impose a system of Sharia law on Karbala citizens. They caused chaos in the town through corruption and harsh laws. They tried through different means to undermine the state authority and the law to control everything about people's lives."
Karbala provincial police head Brigadier General Raed Shakir provided a year by year tally of what he said were killings carried out by the militia. "In 2004, 127 men and five women (civilians) and six police officers and 24 policemen were killed," Shakir said.
"They carried out 13 robberies and 23 abduction operations and planted five roadside bombs."
The following year, he said, 158 men and 25 women were killed and eight civilians were kidnapped. The militia carried out seven robberies and planted 11 roadside bombs.
"In 2006, 160 men and 17 women were killed. Three police officers and one policeman were killed. There were nine robberies and 49 abduction operations. Twenty-four roadside bombs were planted."
So far this year, the police chief said, 92 men and 22 women have been killed by the militia. Three police officers and 25 policemen have been killed.
"The Mahdi army carried out 15 robberies and 53 abduction operations. They planted 11 roadside bombs."