The central Diyala city of Muqtadiya has been embroiled in several days of violence after an Islamic State double bombing. The militants set off two bombs that left over 100 casualties. Afterward Hashd al-Shaabi elements carried out a series of retaliatory attacks against shops, homes, mosques, civilians, and told Sunnis they needed to leave the city. The security forces have done nothing, and the Iraqi press and government have been almost silent on the matter due to the politics in the province.
The crisis in Muqtadiya began with bombings by the Islamic State. On January 11, an improvised explosive device went off at a coffee shop in a Shiite neighborhood that served many members of the Hashd al-Shaabi. After a crowd gathered a car bomb detonated. Together the two explosions left behind 46 dead and 55 wounded, many of which were said to be with the Hashd. The Islamic State has been turning to these types of terrorist attacks in the last few months as it has gone on the defensive. For example, three weeks before the group set off two car bombs in Diyala’s Khalis. The goal of these operations is to set off sectarian tensions and that was exactly what happened.
In the aftermath of the bombings elements of the Hashd carried out revenge attacks throughout the city. On the first day six mosques, seven houses and 36 shops were destroyed, while 10 Sunni men were killed. There were two reports that the Hashd were telling Sunnis to leave the city or be killed. This was all happening during a curfew imposed by the security forces in the wake of the IS bombings, which was lifted the next day. On January 12 another building was blown up, and two journalists from the Sharqiya television station were killed in Abu Saida, which was blamed on the Hashd. Some believed that was a warning to the media to not report on what was going on in Muqtadiya. By January 13, another Sunni mosque was destroyed and five more people were killed. Besides all the carnage what was remarkable was that there was hardly any coverage in the Iraqi media about what was going on, and Baghdad made no statements. The United Nations represented to Iraq condemned the violence, and Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri, who is from Diyala, cut short a trip to Lebanon to meet with provincial officials, but the prime minister’s office has still been silent and there are still hardly any stories about it. The security forces appear to be completely absent from the scene as well.
The Islamic State has been hoping for just such a conflagration to break out in Iraq. It constantly bombs Shiite targets hoping for retaliatory attacks to occur. The killing and wounding of a large number of Hashd in Muqtadiya was just the target they had been seeking as it set off the fighters. The Hashd have been known to attack Sunni civilian targets before. The fact that there was a near total blackout about the violence in the city also highlighted the special situation in Diyala. Badr’s Hadi Ameri has run both the politics and security in the province since 2014. His power and position is probably why few if any Iraqi media outlets reported on events, and also why the security forces have done nothing to stop the violence. Until Ameri gets involved this crisis is likely to continue.
Yesterday Speaker Jabouri and today Prime Minister Abadi went to the operations command in Diyala to talk about the situation in Muqtadiya. NINA reported that January 13 the security forces were sent into the city to try to restore order. Abadi said that he wanted them to crackdown on any perpetrators. Parliament's security committee is going to set up an investigatory commission to look into the violence. It looks like the crisis has finally passed, but it took the authorities 2-3 days to finally respond after most of the damage was done.
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