800 Christians join Shiite militias battling ISIS

The volunteer Shiite fighters pray as they gather in the city of Samarra ahead of moving into Tikrit. AFP photo

The Hashd al-Shaabi Shiite militias, also called Popular Mobilization Units, are training 800 Christian volunteers to battle ISIS in its stronghold Mosul, a source from the Babylon Battalion told the Iraqi Al-Mada newspaper.

“As local forces prepare for the Mosul operation to clear out ISIS gunmen, 800 Christian volunteers have also joined the Battalion of Babylon that belongs to the Hashd al-Shaabi,” a source inside the Christian battalion told Al-Mada late Saturday.

According to the source, the Christian volunteers have been training in three military camps in the city of Baghdad and Salahadin province.

“The battalion is a special military arrangement for Christians under the control of Hashd al-Shaabi,” Al-Mada quoted the Christian source as saying.

This is not the first time non-Shiite volunteers have reportedly joined the Hashd al-Shaabi. The militias have previously claimed their military groups belong to all parts of Iraq, with different religious and ethnic backgrounds.

Moen al-Kazemi, a Hashd al-Shaabi commander, said the group is a national military group, fighting to protect Iraq and Iraqis, and that volunteers from various background are among the Shiite group.

The Shiite militias signed up 100,000 volunteers in June in Iraq’s ongoing war against the Islamic State, Kazemi said.

The militias, some of which have known ties to Iran, took the lead in the liberation of Tikrit earlier this year amid subsequent allegations the fighters marginalized Sunni residents of the area.

The Hashd al-Shaabi rose up last year at a call from Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite cleric in Iraq, when ISIS fighters overran much of country’s western territory.

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Source: Rudaw

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