Saturday, June 14, 2014

Seeing Their Gains at Risk, Shiites Flock to Join Militias

JUNE 13, 2014

BAGHDAD — When he heard on Tuesday that Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, had fallen to Sunni militants, Abu Ali Alakabaie knew what he had to do.

One of a number of Iraqi Shiite commanders who had been fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in recent years, he quickly packed his belongings and hit the road, racing to Baghdad, where he had heard that the militants were already reaching the northern suburbs.

“After they occupied Mosul, we decided to come back from Syria to back the security forces here,” he said.

He arrived in Baghdad later on Tuesday, joining a growing throng of Iraqi militia commanders and fighters eager to put to work here the finely honed skills they had accumulated in Syria in years of fighting some of the same Sunni militants who were now attacking Iraq. “We now have great experience in guerrilla fighting,” he said, adding diplomatically, “The Iraqi Army has no experience doing that.”

As he spoke Friday evening, hundreds of young Shiite men streamed past him, massing in a basketball arena in eastern Baghdad, lining up before recruiters like college students at a job fair. The officials took their names and addresses, to run background checks before adding them to the militia ranks.

(More here.)


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