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IRAQ WARS
Iraqi Shiites slam calls to disband militia group after IS fight
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Dec 3, 2017


Half of Yazidis kidnapped by IS still missing
Erbil, Iraq (AFP) Dec 3, 2017 - Around half of the Yazidis kidnapped by the Islamic State group three years ago are still missing, Iraqi Kurdish officials said Sunday.

In 2014, IS jihadists killed thousands of Yazidis in Sinjar and kidnapped thousands of women and girls from the religious minority to abuse them as sex slaves.

Kurdish fighters backed by the US-led coalition against IS captured Sinjar from the jihadists in November 2015 before Iraqi security forces took control of the region in October.

A top official with the ministry of religious affairs of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq said that some 6,417 Yazidis were abducted by the jihadists from August 3, 2014.

Up until December 1, 2017, only 3,207 of them have been rescued or managed to flee their captors, said Khairi Bozani.

The remaining 3,210 Yazidis -- including 1,507 women or girls -- were still either held by the jihadists or considered missing, he told AFP.

The ministry has been following up on the case and its figures show that 2,525 Yazidi children are now orphans while the parents of 220 others were still unaccounted for.

According to Bozani 47 mass graves containing the remains of Yazidis have been found since 2014.

The UN has called the massacres of Yazidis a genocide, arguing that IS had planned them and then intentionally separated men from women to prevent Yazidi children from being born.

The Yazidis are Kurdish-speaking but follow their own non-Muslim faith that earned them the hatred of the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS.

Yazidis believe in one God who created the world and entrusted it to seven Holy Beings, the most important of which is Melek Taus, or the Peacock Angel.

Around 550,000 Yazidis lived in Iraq before the massacres but since then 100,000 have left the country while 360,000 have been displaced and live in Iraqi Kurdistan or across the border in Syria.

Iraqi officials have blasted calls to disband a Shiite-dominated militia coalition that has been key in battling the Islamic State group, after French President Emmanuel Macron said it should disarm.

The 60,000-strong Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, was formed in 2014 after IS routed government forces to seize swathes of northern Iraq, and it played a central role in helping push back the jihadists.

Calls have grown from the West for the Hashed, an umbrella group dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias that is officially controlled by Iraq's prime minister, to be dismantled as the IS "caliphate" has been reduced to a few pockets of desert.

"Any such discussion is rejected and we do not accept interference in Iraqi affairs," said one of the group's leaders, Ahmad al-Assadi.

"Asking for the dissolution of the Hashed is like asking for the dissolution of the Iraqi army because the Hashed are a key element of Iraqi security."

Macron called at a press conference with Iraqi Kurdish leaders on Saturday for "a gradual demilitarisation" of the Hashed and for all militias in Iraq to be "dismantled".

"Emmanuel Macron interfered unexpectedly in Iraq's internal affairs by calling for the dismantling of a legal institution, Hashed al-Shaabi," vice president and former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki wrote on Facebook Saturday.

"We don't want any country to impose its will on the Iraqi government and the brave Iraqi nation," the leading Shiite politician said.

The Hashed is deeply divisive inside Iraq and among the country's international backers, and has been accused both of promoting Iranian interests and carrying out a wave of abuses.

In October, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi strongly defended the Hashed after comments from US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Iranian militias in Iraq should "go home".

IRAQ WARS
Britain's May tours Mideast amid Islam row with Trump
Riyadh (AFP) Nov 30, 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May met Saudi leaders before leaving for Jordan Thursday on a Middle East tour overshadowed by a high-profile row with US President Donald Trump over Islam. Trump has infuriated British authorities with his tweets on terrorism in Britain, including highly publicised run-ins with London's Muslim mayor Sadiq Khan. On Tuesday, he drew fierce condemnation at ho ... read more

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