Thanks to Sunni Extremists, Baghdad sees Return of Shia Extremist Militias
The Shiite Muslim extremist militia, known as the League of the Righteous, is taking an increasingly prominent role in Baghdad’s security. Masked men, who only use nicknames and travel in civilian cars without license plates, are on patrol with the regular Iraqi army.
After Sunni Muslim extremist groups took over swathes of Iraqi countryside earlier this month, the call went out for ordinary Iraqis to take up arms and defend their homeland. While many heeded that call, and in fact many joined the Iraqi army, it also saw more extreme Shiite Muslim militias gain in standing and power.
In particular, the Shiite Muslim group League of the Righteous has taken up arms and become a sort of de-facto military force. The League of Righteous was already allied with Iraq’s current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite Muslim.
This is why League members have started appearing at many of Baghdad’s hundreds of checkpoints, working alongside the Iraqi army, as though they were equal in power. Dressed in black clothing emblazoned with specifically Shiite Muslim religious messages, they help to inspect passing vehicles. Sometimes they even carry out inspections by themselves. Some League members have also been conspicuous at Iraqi army command centres elsewhere in the country.
Members of the League have formed convoys with their own civilian vehicles and they patrol Baghdad’s streets, both in Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim neighbourhoods. Some of the volunteers in the newly popular League appear to be very young, not even 15 years old.
League members are cautious, careful and practice stringent security. They never introduce themselves and according to one League member, Abbas al-Kaabi, they often use nicknames and tend not to reveal their real names.