Shia militias from the Iraqi government-aligned Hashd al Shaabi, also known as the People's Mobilization Forces (PMF), on Thursday blew up Al-Hara and Imam Bukhari mosques in the town of Rutba, in the western Anbar Province, local sources reported.
This latest report of violence by the Hashd al Shaabi, which is taking part in a wide-range offensive to liberate Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh terrorists, adds to concerns that the Shia militia's involvement in the operation could lead to sectarian tension in the ethnically and religiously diverse Mosul.
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"They had abducted more than 23 of the town’s young people before taking them to an unknown location," a Rutba resident, Sheikh Moneim al Qubeisi, told Anadolu Agency.
"The militiamen also torched several homes and private vehicles in Rutba after accusing their owners of sympathizing with Daesh," he added.
Last weekend, Daesh attacked Rutba in an apparent effort to divert Iraqi forces from their offensive. Three days later, Iraq said its forces including the Shia militias had regained full control of the town.
The Hashd al Shaabi was established in 2014. It is an umbrella group of around 40 militia groups consisting of Shia Iraqis who were trained and armed by Iran.
In July, the Iraqi government officially incorporated the militias as an “independent military formation” in Iraq’s security forces.