Baxtiyar Goran Baxtiyar Goran
Sadr orders Shia militia deployment to secure Kirkuk-Baghdad road
Saraya al-Salam fighters loyal to Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr march during a parade in Baghdad, June 21, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Wissm al-Okili)
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shia cleric in Iraq, has ordered the deployment of the Saraya al-Salam militia group to protect the Kirkuk-Baghdad road, an Iraqi Member of Parliament revealed on Saturday.
Saraya al-Salam, previously known as the al-Mahdi Army, is a Shia faction under the umbrella of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi founded by Sadr.
“The recent incidents on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road claimed the lives of dozens of people by criminal gangs who do not differentiate between fighters and civilians,” Hakim al-Zamili, Head of the Defense and Security Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, said in a statement.
According to the Iraqi MP, the Kirkuk-Baghdad road has been nicknamed “the death road” due to an increase in attacks by Islamic State (IS) extremists.
“The Saraya al-Salam militias will be deployed in the areas between Daquq and Khurmatu toward Amirli to participate in securing the Kirkuk-Baghdad road,” Zamili said, adding the deployment is aimed at supporting Iraqi police and the army in the area.
In the past month, attacks claimed by the extremist group have substantially increased in Kirkuk and areas south of the province. IS has been setting up fake security checkpoints in southern and southwestern Kirkuk, blocking roads to Baghdad and other regions of Iraq.
Zamili called on Iraqi forces to follow up on IS sleeper cells and prevent them from regrouping and re-emerging.
In mid-March, clashes erupted between the Saraya al-Salam militia and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s guards in Salahuddin Province, northern Baghdad, resulting in the death of the commander of the guard’s Brigade 57.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany