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Shiite armed groups in Iraq decide to disband

A member of Iraqi security forces carries an Iraqi flag as he celebrates the final victory over the Daesh at Tahrir Square in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. (REUTERS)
BAGHDAD: A number of armed Shiite factions that fought Daesh alongside Iraqi government forces have voluntarily announced their dissolution and placed their fighters under the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Iraqi officials and Shiite leaders told Arab News on Sunday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced on Saturday the liberation of all Iraqi territories and the end of the three-year war against Daesh, which seized almost a third of the territories in the west and north in summer 2014.
“At least four (armed) factions have voluntarily decided to disband their troops and gave the prime minister full authority to determine the fate of their fighters,” a senior security Iraqi official told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“The procedures for disbanding these forces and the implementation mechanisms have not yet been decided, but 90 percent of them are likely to be disbanded and the remainder will be appointed to be a part of the regular security services,” the official said.
“No weapon will remain in the hands of anyone outside the control of the state. The decision to disarm the irregular armed factions will be issued in a few weeks and those who refuse to hand over their weapons will be considered outlaw,” he added.
Some of these details have been confirmed to Arab News by Karim Al-Nuri, a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and a senior Badr Brigade leader; Aws Al-Khafaji, the head of the Abu Fadhal Al-Abbas armed faction; and Hisham Al-Hashimi, a security expert and one of the national security advisers.
In a statement on Saturday, Al-Khafaji said: “After the final and big victory against Daesh, we are putting all these troops (Abu Fadhal Al-Abass troops) — which are a part of the PMF — fully under the command of the commander in chief of the armed forces.”
Shiite armed factions have played a vital role in the fighting against Daesh. They had been fighting under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which was established by Nuri Al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, in June 2014, to cover the armed factions who volunteered to fight Daesh alongside the government. More than 120,000 is the number of fighters officially registered in the payroll of the PMF.
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Saraya Al-Salam, or the Battalions of Peace, the biggest Shiite armed faction linked to the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr; Kataib Al-Imam Ali and the Battalions of Imam Ali, which is linked to the Shiite clergymen in Najaf, led by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, are among these factions, officials said.
“To restrict the arms at the hand of the state and limit the unjustified militarization of the society, Sadr has called to legalize all the armed factions in Iraq, including the Popular Mobilization Forces,” Safa’a Al-Timimi, the spokesman of Saraya Al-Salam, told Arab News.
“Of course we are included in this (Sadr’s) call,” Al-Timimi said.
“We have already begun discussions with the ministers of defense and interior weeks ago to put in place a mechanism to include a number of our fighters in their formations,” he added.
Saraya Al-Salam has 6,000 fighters who are formally registered within the PMF, and they have been deployed in northwestern Karbala, central Samarra, Balad and Ishaqi, Al-Timimi said.
“Our call is clear and explicit. The weapons have to be exclusively in the hands of the government and no one but the disciplined fighters will be included within the regular security services,” Al-Timimi said.

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