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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reuters reporter flees Iraq after threats from his reporting on Tikrit

Ned Parker, Reuter bureau chief in Baghdad, left Iraq after threats to his life on Facebook and being denounced on a Shiite military group news channel.
Parker had reported on the lynching of an Islamic State fighter by the Federal Iraqi police. His report also detailed widespread looting and arson. Local politicians blame the looting and burning on Shiite militia.He also observed Shia militia dragging a corpse through the streets behind a vehicle. Posts on Facebook and on a TV station linked to armed militia groups demanded that Parker be expelled since he had denigrated Iraqi security forces and government-backed militia. Facebook removed some posts threatening Parker at the request of Reuters.
It should be noted that these militias are not the Iranian backed and controlled militias that had taken part in the earlier offensive that ended up stalled in the suburbs of Tikrit. The US insisted that it would not commence bombing as long as Iranian controlled militia were involved in the final assault: Those Shiite militia groups who remained in Tikrit and agreed to follow Iraqi government orders were easily identified as potential partners. “That means every aspect from top to bottom, the Iraqis had to be in charge,” a U.S. defense official said of the final phase of the battle.The most pro-Iranian militias remained outside or at the perimeters of Tikrit during the final push. Some virulently anti-American militias refused even to take part in the operation. There are also reports of revenge actions in areas surrounding Tikrit so the Iranian-linked militia could have been involved in those.
The Shia are particularly upset about the mass kidnapping and killing by IS of hundreds of Iraqi forces recruits at Camp Speicher. Mass graves recently uncovered may be associated with this massacre. Parker's report is hardly surprising. Amnesty International had already been probing reports of abuses not just by militia but Iraqi forces as well. Rovera , a senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty said:"We are investigating reports that scores of residents have been seized early last month and not heard of since, and that residents' homes and businesses have been blown up or burned down after having been looted by militias.There have also been reports of summary executions of men who may or may not have been involved in combat but who were killed after having been captured,"Some of the revenge actions could very well have been carried out by Sunni tribe members who had opposed IS and seen their members slaughtered by IS while other tribes who cooperated remained untouched.
The vandalism and looting is hardly unexpected as members of the militia appropriate items that will be useful to them or can be sold. Governments and the military detest bad publicity, but then they also are criticized for tolerating threats against journalists who simply report what is happening. Many Sunnis no doubt are relieved to no longer be under the control of the Islamic State and support the Shia militia:On the way out of Tikrit, I stopped to talk to Sunni farmers whose land used to be under ISIS control. We have no problem with the militias, said Hadia Baddaria, adding that the local residents were afraid of ISIS. As she stands in the palm-fringed fields, a truck filled with militiamen pulls up.They've brought food and given a woman from the village a ride. She jumped out of the truck with a tiny baby in her arms, to the delight of the villagers, and headed home.
Farrar Haddad, a research fellow at the Middle East Institute more or less sums up the situation: "While excesses have been committed and there may have even been instances of war crimes, we have yet to see evidence of what was widely feared: a systematic and pre-planned eradication of Tikrit,"


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