Shia militia denies killing civilian in Iraq after viral video

Published June 2nd, 2015 - 06:20 GMT

A Shiite militia has denied any connection to a viral video that purports to show its fighters committing a wartime atrocity in Iraq.

The Kataeb Imam Ali militia, in a statement Sunday, said that it had no presence in the area – Al-Karma in Anbar province – where the incident is believed to have taken place.

The video, which has received more than 270,000 views since it was posted Saturday, shows a group of men as they make jokes and taunt what seems to be the lifeless body of a man who has been strung up over an open fire.

Several of the fighters are wearing insignias of the Kataeb Imam Aligroup, and they claim that the man, who is wearing civilian clothes, is an ISIS sympathizer.

“Very nice,” one of them says as they mug for the camera. At one point one of the fighters recommends that the man’s body be lowered down, closer to the flames.

The militia condemned the mutilation of the man’s body and said such behavior violated the militia’s own code, accusing media outlets of seeking to stir up trouble.

“Our battalions have nothing to do with what was shown; we have no group or fighter in the area of the crime, Al-Karma,” it said, adding that it had the special distinction of counting Sunnis and Christians among its ranks.

The incident is only the latest in a string of video footage that purports to show atrocities by Shiite militiamen against Sunni civilians to circulate via social media.

Another, short piece of footage, which was also posted this weekend, purports to show a group of militiamen and policemen look on as one of their comrades repeatedly stabs a detainee in the head.

The Kataeb Imam Ali is one of several dozen groups that are part of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization umbrella body of overwhelmingly Shiite militias. Small numbers of Sunni tribesmen are also believed to be fighting as part of the Popular Mobilization force. But human rights groups and critics of the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have long been critical of the practice of relying on Shiite militias in the fight against ISIS, whose members are Sunni – but who also terrorize Iraqis and Syrians of all sects.

In March, a photograph purported to show a militiaman beheading a Sunni shepherd, while an earlier piece of video purported to show a teenager gunned down by paramilitaries.

When they enter areas after seizing them from ISIS, the Shiite militias are accused of branding all residents they find as sympathizers with the jihadis.

Officials have not commented on the latest accusations of atrocities, although Abadi said in April that his government had “zero tolerance” for human rights violations, acknowledging that they had taken place.

In February, a report by Human Rights Watch warned that abuses by the militias in Sunni areas were on the rise, accusing the fighters of kidnapping, displacing and summarily executing their fellow Iraqis.

“Iraqi civilians are being hammered by ISIS and then by pro-government militias in areas they seize from ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch.

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