ASIA/IRAQ - Human Rights Watch report: Christian villages looted and burned in the Nineveh Plain by anti-jihadist militias

Friday, 17 February 2017 oriental churches   jihadists   wars   sectaniarism   paramilitary groups

Qaraqosh (Agenzia Fides) - "Spontaneous" armed militias and paramilitary groups involved in the fight against the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic state (Daesh) are responsible for looting, destruction and burning of entire neighborhoods in at least four villages in adjacent areas in Mosul, acts committed after the cities had been abandoned by the militia of the Caliphate. This is the scenario that emerges from a detailed report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Thanks to the reports of many eyewitnesses, and also making use of satellite photos of the affected areas, the international organization committed in the defense of human rights was able to verify that armed groups and militias of "popular self-protection" forces, that now claim their role in the campaign of "liberation" from the jihadist occupation, looted and devastated entire neighborhoods of the city recently taken from the control of Daesh. The looting and devastation apparently took place between November 2016 and February 2017, with no apparent justification from a military point of view. According to Human Rights Watch among the groups identified as responsible for looting and destruction, it appears that also the popular mobilization forces known as Hashd al-Sha'abi are involved, units that were formed largely to combat ISIS, and are under the direct command of Prime Minister al-Abadi.
To the southwest of Mosul, Human Rights Watch documented looting and extensive demolition of buildings in three villages using explosives, heavy machinery, and fire. In the village of Ashwa it seems that also the largest mosque was destroyed for no reason. The representatives of Hashd al-Sha'abi responded to the allegations by Human Rights Watch, talking about booby-trapped by ISIS which then caused the destruction of houses and public buildings after their retreat. But several eyewitness reports collected by Human Rights Watch appear to contradict that version.

Among the looted cities there is also the village of Qaraqosh, which before falling into the hands of the jihadists was inhabited entirely by Christians, and the Christian-Sunnis of al-Khidir. The HRW report also indicates the protection Unit of the Nineveh Plain - formed in part by Assyrian Christians - among military groups of self-protection, responsible of the control of such villages after they were abandoned by jihadists. Witnesses confirmed that they had found their houses looted or destroyed in February.
About 60 thousand local Christians fled from Qaraqosh and other villages in the Nineveh Plain in the night between 6 and 7 August 2014, when the Kurdish Peshmerga army had suddenly withdrawn before the advancing of the militias of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 17/02/2017)