Iraqi PM orders action against looting, arson in Tikrit

Published April 4th, 2015 - 05:01 GMT

Shia paramilitary fighters looting and setting fire to buildings in Tikrit are "out of control," an official said.

Ahmed al-Karim, head of the Salahuddin provincial council, said the fighters had burnt "hundreds of houses" in the last two days.

It comes as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces to oppose vandalism in the city of Tikrit, retaken from the Islamic State group (also known as Daesh) this week, and arrest those responsible.

Mr Karim, who left for Baghdad late on Friday afternoon due to the chaos, said houses and shops were being burnt and fighters were stealing everything from inside them.

"Our city was burnt in front of our eyes. We can't control what is going on," he said.

Security and military forces were ordered to "deal with cases of vandalism" carried out by gangs seeking to tarnish the achievements of government forces and allied paramilitaries, a statement released by the prime minister’s office said.

Mr Abadi also called on "forces located in Tikrit to arrest everyone who carries out such acts, and preserve properties and facilities in Salahuddin province."

Militiamen have spray-painted the names of their groups on homes, shops and other buildings, and also looted clothing and toiletries from shops.

They also admitted to intentionally burning houses in other recaptured areas that were believed to have been used by IS or to belong to its supporters.

Policemen from the rapid response forces have written graffiti on walls in Tikrit as well.

A number of homes and businesses were burning in Tikrit earlier this week, though at least some of the fires were apparently related to efforts to clear the city of bombs.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shia cleric who is revered by millions, also called on security forces and allied paramilitaries to "preserve and guard citizens' properties in areas that have been liberated."

Doing so is a "religious and national and moral duty," Sistani said in remarks read by his representative at Friday prayers in Karbala.

"It has an important role in encouraging those who have not yet decided to participate in liberating their areas to decide to participate," he said.

"This is an important gain for all."

By Lydia Willgress

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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