250 Iraqi Sunnis join Iranian-backed Shiite militia to battle ISIS

AFP reports: Wearing a camouflage uniform with militia patches and a green headband, Nawar Mohammed is the image of an Iraqi Shiite fighter except for one detail: he is Sunni.

Mohammed is one of some 250 Sunni residents of Al-Alam who joined Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia with a fearsome reputation for kidnappings and killings targeting their community, to battle the Islamic State group after it seized their town.

It would once have been all but unthinkable for a member of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority to join a Shiite militia, but opposition to IS, which overran large areas north and west of Baghdad last June, is transcending deep-seated sectarian divisions.

“The whole world is surprised by this — it’s the first time in the history of Asaib that they formed a Sunni unit,” said Mohammed, standing with a Kalashnikov assault rifle hanging at his side.

“Asaib trained us, and we became part of Asaib,” he said.

“Asaib, Sunni or Shiite, there is no difference — these circumstances united Iraq,” Mohammed said. “God willing, there will not be any more sectarianism.”

The formation of the unit, which some call “Asaib al-Alam,” is a positive sign and its fighters seem genuine when praising Asaib Ahl al-Haq. [Continue reading…]

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