Paramilitaries should be incorporated in Iraqi security bodies: Top Shiite cleric

A member of the Hashed Al-Shaabi (Popular Moblization units) carries a portrait of Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in a street in the southern city of Basra. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2017

Paramilitaries should be incorporated in Iraqi security bodies: Top Shiite cleric

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups that fought against Daesh should be incorporated into state security bodies, the country’s top Shiite cleric said on Friday.
All weapons used to fight Daesh should be brought under the control of the Iraqi government, said Ali Al-Sistani.
He urged Haider Abadi, prime minister and commander in chief of the armed forces, to institutionalize paramilitary troops and benefit from their experience to support the security establishment. Abadi last week declared victory over Daesh, which seized swathes of territory in June 2014.
“The victory over Daesh does not represent the end of the battle with terrorism and terrorists,” said Al-Sistani.
“This battle will continue as long as there are people who were misled and embraced extremist thought,” he added.
“Beware of laxity in dealing with this constant threat… Hidden terrorist members and sleeper cells… are looking for opportunities to undermine the security and stability of the country.
“The Iraqi security establishment is still in dire need of the many heroic men who backed the army and federal police forces during the last few years, and fought with them on various fronts and did well in the most rugged areas and the harshest conditions.
“It is necessary to continue to use these important energies (the fighters) within the constitutional and legal frameworks that restrict arms to the state.”
The collapse of the Iraqi Army in 2014 and Daesh’s advance toward Baghdad prompted Al-Sistani to issue a religious edict urging Iraqis to volunteer to fight Daesh and stop its advance.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis, mainly Shiites, responded and fought alongside the government under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which was established by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Shiite militias backed by Iran represented the backbone of the PMU.
Iraq’s Parliament legalized the PMU late last year, but Abadi has been facing pressure to dissolve it as it is widely seen as Iran’s armed wing in Iraq.
Al-Sistani’s speech supports Abadi’s efforts to institutionalize the PMU and turn it into a regular security apparatus that is fully subject to military standards approved by the defense and interior ministries.
“Parliament has issued the law of the PMU but left all details related to the number of troops, their kinds of weapons, missions, camps, where they have to be deployed… to Abadi,” Hisham Al-Hashimi, an Iraqi military and security analyst, told Arab News. “Al-Sistani has put all the responsibility on Abadi.”
Saraya Al-Salam, the armed wing of influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, as well as the Badr Organization and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, the most powerful groups within the PMU, last week announced their readiness to hand over their weapons and put their fighters under Abadi’s command.
Iraqi officials told Arab News that the registered number of PMU fighters is more than 120,000, but most of them do not meet military standards regarding age, health and education.
“If Abadi applied military standards to the PMU, that would mean the demobilization of tens of thousands of fighters,” retired Gen. Emad Allow told Arab News.
“The government should provide job opportunities and training for demobilized fighters before sending them back on the street,” he said.
“The Defense Ministry and PMU commanders are already in talks to institutionalize the PMU, but no significant changes will take place on the ground soon.”

Thousands homeless after Yemen floods

A picture taken on June 3, 2020 in Yemen's Hadramout province shows a flooded area following torrential rains brought by Cyclone Nisarga. (AFP)
Updated 20 min 43 sec ago

Thousands homeless after Yemen floods

  • Efforts to contain COVID-19 affected

AL-MUKALLA: Thousands of people have been left homeless following torrential rain and flash flooding in Yemen.

For the second consecutive week, heavy rains triggered flash floods that washed away houses, farms, roads and electricity and water lines in the provinces of Marib, Dhale, Abyan, Hadramout, Ibb and Hajjah. The severe weather prevented medical workers battling the coronavirus pandemic from reaching health facilities, testing centers and patients.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Sunday instructed the governors of heavily affected provinces to send relief aid to those who had lost property during the downpours. He also appealed to local and international aid organizations to help the country cope with the effects of the flooding.

The government’s Executive Unit for IDPs Camp Management said that more than 2,600 families in Marib, Hajjah, Abyan and Dhale have been left without shelter after rains and floods washed away their tents and straw houses.

In its reports, seen by Arab News, the unit recommended distributing cash to the affected families, relocating them to safer areas and building stronger houses. In the central city of Marib that hosts hundreds of thousands of people who fled fighting in their home provinces, flash floods filled up the Marib dam reservoirs.

The unit said 1,340 families were affected after floods inundated their tents. The intensity of floods stoked fears about a possible dam rupture that could destroy hundreds of houses and farms.

To allay fears and quash rumors about the crumbling of the dam, Marib Gov. Sultan Al-Arada and several government officials visited the dam and assured the public that it was safe and could withstand even harsher floods.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Yemen said flooding in the northern province of Hajjah and the western province of Hodeidah had washed away the homes and farms of thousands of families.

“Recent heavy rains and flooding across Hajjah and Hodeidah have impacted 9,000+ families,” it said. “Shelters, roads and land were destroyed. Loss of livestock and personal belongings. UNHCR quickly responded, helping thousands with emergency shelter and items like mattresses and blankets,” the UNHCR Yemen office tweeted on Sunday.

The National Meteorology Center has predicted more heavy rains and flash floods in many parts of Yemen throughout this week, warning people against crossing into water courses or driving in mountainous and hilly areas.

Health concerns

Local health officials said Monday that the downpours had hampered efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus across Yemen and created ripe conditions for the spread of mosquitoes.

Dr. Ishraq Al-Subaee, a spokesman for the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee, told Arab News that many health facilities across government-controlled provinces could not send updates about coronavirus as floods prevented them from testing suspected cases or sending samples to testing centers.

Health workers in the southern province of Shabwa, which does not have a coronavirus testing center, could not send samples to neighboring Hadramout province due to floods and rains, he said.

The National Coronavirus Committee on Sunday reported four new cases and three deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed coronavirus infections to 1,734, including 497 fatalities and 862 recoveries. Yemen reported its first case of coronavirus on April 10 in Hadramout.

Local health officials in the city of Marib said that ambulances could still not reach heavily affected areas in the province due to the floods, as local health centers reported a surge in the number of mosquito-borne diseases.

“What concerns us most is a potential outbreak of malaria and dengue fever in Marib, mainly among displaced people,” Dr. Abdul Aziz Al-Shadadi, the director of Marib’s Ministry of Health office, told Arab News.