Iraq’s Vice President Nouri Al-Maliki said Monday the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia could enter Syria to fight for “Syrian brothers” if needed.
His statement came amid increased concerns over the armed Shia group to fuel sectarian clashes in northern Iraq, especially the Turkmen-populated city of Tal Afar and the Sunni-populated Mosul.
“If we can be successful against Daesh and liberate our soil, we can go into Syria if our brothers there need help against Daesh,” Malik told a press meeting in Iran’s capital Tehran.
An umbrella group of pro-government Shia militias, the Hashd al-Shaabi was established in 2014 with the express purpose of fighting the Daesh terrorist group.
The Hashd al-Shaabi has been accused in the past of committing violations against civilians in Sunni-majority areas that it has captured from Daesh — allegations that it has denied.
Hashd Al-Shabi officials also repeated similar statement vowing to fight for Assad regime in Syria after Iraq.
In November 2016, Iraq’s parliament endorsed a proposal to formally incorporate the Hashd al-Shaabi into the Iraqi armed forces.
There is no official data regarding the size of the Hashd al-Shaabi, but some sources say it can field as many as 300,000 fighters.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi called in a previous statement, urging all armed groups under Shaabi militia to obey Baghdad’s policy not to interfere other countries’ internal affairs.
“Hashd al-Shaabi should respect neighboring countries. Fighting outside Iraq will not ease our burden. We don’t want to take part in a regional clashes,” he said.
Reporting by Mustafa Melih Ahishali; Writing by Sorwar Alam
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