Official security forces have been very busy elsewhere dealing with the threat posed by the group known as the Islamic State, which has taken control of large amounts of territory in Iraq and which threatens Baghdad, if not directly at the moment, then most certainly with car bombs, suicide bombers and other terrorist actions.
While official security forces like the army and police have been at work elsewhere, there has been a rise in the number of unofficial militias patrolling Baghdad’s streets. Most of these are Shiite Muslim locals who have answered a call to protect members of their own sect; unfortunately some units of these militias operate more like criminal gangs than a trained army. And it is suspected that their increasing influence and freedom of movement in Baghdad is behind the increase in kidnapping and crime.
Members of the Shiite Muslim militias have also been accused of committing murder and other crimes as they have been able to roam more freely around the country.
Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has expressed concern about the growing number of kidnappings and has formed a dedicated anti-kidnapping unit within the Baghdad Operations Command, the military unit dedicated to the capital’s security.
Almost immediately the unit discovered something alarming – many of the kidnappers were seen to be wearing military uniforms and driving expensive cars with tinted windows, similar to those owned by senior government officials.
Everyone in Baghdad knows only too well who has uniforms and these kinds of vehicles – members of the government’s official security forces, the special body guard units that protect senior Iraqi politicians and the unofficial mostly Shiite Muslim militia groups that have been mobilised to confront the IS group.