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Islamic State Turns Its Fight in Iraq on Shiite Militias
By Edwin Mora

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) repelled an offensive launched by Shiite militiamen, many of them backed by Iran, to recapture the village of Bashir south of northern Iraq's Kirkuk, Kurdish media outlet Rudaw reports.

Kurds have been fighting for control of Kirkuk since ISIS swept through Iraq in June 2014.

An estimated "fifteen [Shiite militia] Hashd al-Shaabi members have been killed, 90 wounded and another 20 missing," Bashir Nazm Kahiya, a provincial official in Kirkuk, told Rudaw.

The Hashd al-Shaabi "were defeated after being ambushed by ISIS militants," added Kahiya, later adding, the militiamen "have retreated from Bashir to the surrounding areas from where they launched an assault to recapture the village in the first place."

ISIS seized Bashir last year.

"Since then despite many attempts the Hashd al-Shaabi has been unable to liberate it from ISIS's clutch," notes Rudaw. "Bashir, a predominantly Shiite Turkmen village, is the biggest in the Kirkuk province."

Last month, the Shiite-led government in Iraq has expressed concern over the growing influence of Shiite militias, collectively known as the "Hashd," which is Arabic for "mobilization."

Citing estimates from the government of Iraq and the Hashd itself, the Associated Press (AP) reports that "the more than 50 Shiite militias in Iraq have between 60,000 and 140,000 fighters... They are backed by tanks and weapons, and have their own intelligence agency, operations rooms and court of law."

Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), an Iran-backed Shiite militia, threatened U.S. Marines deployed to northern Iraq last month.

"If the U.S. administration doesn't withdraw its forces immediately, we will deal with them as forces of occupation," the militia declared on its TV channel, al-Ahd, according to The Telegraph

"The forces of occupation are making a new suspicious attempt to restore their presence in the country under the pretext of fighting their own creation, Daesh," the Shiite group added, using an Arabic name for ISIS.

Despite their disagreement, the U.S. military and the Shiite militiamen are theoretically on the same side against ISIS.

Nevertheless, the Shiite militia movement threatened U.S. troops deployed to a new American outpost called Fire Base Bell.

It "is the first independent U.S. base of its kind in Iraq since the return of American forces to the country in 2014 and is the latest sign of deepening U.S. military involvement in the conflict," noted Reuters.

The "fledgling U.S. base in northern Iraq came under attack again on Monday from Islamic State and even drew a threat from an Iran-backed Shi'ite militia, two days after a U.S. Marine there was killed in a rocket attack," it added.

According to a December 2012 report by the Institute for the Study of War, between 2006 and 2011, the Iran-backed militia group claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks on U.S. troops.


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