BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq’s prime minister ordered an investigation on Saturday into the killing of two civilians at the main security office in western Anbar province, where the army and Shi’ite and Sunni volunteers are fighting Islamic State insurgents.
The directive is the latest effort by Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shi’ite Islamist who took office in September, to show that his administration is transparent and accountable to all sects as the government seeks to roll back IS gains in the country’s north and west.
Abadi’s official Facebook page called the killing “a heinous crime ... intended to sow discord and distract (citizens) and the security forces from fighting the Daesh criminal gang,” - a reference to Islamic State.
Abadi’s predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, was accused of protecting Iraq’s Shi’ite community while turning a blind eye to allegations of abuses against the Sunni minority by the security forces and Shi’ite militias.
Islamic State was able to exploit the sense of disenfranchisement among Sunnis when the jihadists swept across western and northern Iraq last year. Many Sunnis now resent Islamic State but are waiting to see if Abadi is serious about reform.
Local officials, a tribal leader and an army officer said the two men from a prominent Sunni tribe were killed at the Anbar Operations Command earlier in the day after being detained at a checkpoint operated by a mixture of security forces and Sunni and Shi’ite volunteer fighters.
Anbar has myriad pro-government forces fighting, ranging from Shi’ite militias to Sunni tribesmen, all of whom have been accused of committing human rights abuses in the war against Islamic State.
“These men were innocent. They were driving a car that had license plates from Saudi Arabia and they were stopped by the Hashid Shaabi, taken to the Anbar Operations Command and executed there by having their throats slit,” Sabah Karhut, Anbar provincial council chief, told Reuters.
Shi’ite militias and government-supervised volunteers known as Hashid Shaabi, or the popular mobilization committee, have taken the lead in battling IS after the Iraqi army nearly collapsed last summer.
Abadi’s spokesman declined to provide details about the incident or the promised investigation.
Abadi called for an investigation last week into accusations that Shi’ite militias systematically executed at least 72 people in the eastern village of Barwanah.
Reporting By Saif Hameed and Stephen Kalin, editing by Mike Peacock