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>> Shiite paramilitaries were a key part of Iraq forces in the US back campaign to re-take the city of Fallujah from Islamic state fighters. Throughout that operation in June and July, reports emerged of atrocities carried out by those malicious against Sunni civilians. Rhodis has put together the clearest picture to date of the civilian toll.
So far confirming 66 executions and identified over 700 Sunni men and boys from the area still missing and presumed dead. Almost 650 of them came from a single town north of Fallujah. Reuters correspondent Ned Parker is a former Baghdad bureau chief.>> What happened was extremely organized. These militia groups that were taking care of, or were screening these Sunni males and interrogated them and beat and killed them allegedly, according to to these accounts.
They acted with a very thorough chain of command. They were very precise. And at times they also spoke of revenge, their wish for revenge for Shia soldiers who had been killed in the fight against ISIS since June 2014.>> Reuters spoke with witnesses, survivors, and reviewed reports and testimony gathered by local governments and international agencies.
> In one case, close to 5,000 Sunni men, women, and children were fleeing the area when they encountered the Shiite militia. About 1,500 men and boys were marched to nearby warehouses. They reported being beaten, tortured, and interrogated. Several hundred were later released. But 643 were never seen again.
Militia leaders denied they murdered civilians. They say the missing men were ISIS fighters killed in battle. Recognizing the threat of sectarian violence the US threatened to withdraw air support if the militias were not restrained, apparently to no avail.>> The central tension in Iraq right now is the Iraqi government is so weak.
These militias, many of whom are backed by Iran, can really do what they want. They're seen as an effective fighting force, they are seen as having stopped ISIS. They are seen as heroes by many in the Iraqi public while the Iraqi government is seen as incredibly weak. So the Americans didn't really have much to say in the shaping of the battle for Fallujah.
And they in effect had to watch as the northern side of the city where there are towns that have long been seen by many Shia as associated with Sunni arm groups. That these areas were going to be cleared by Shiite militias that are often times sectarian and bent on vengeance.
The Americans can see in real time what was happening. And they had learned were pretty sure only about it after the fact.>> This does not bode well for the current campaign to retake Mosul. Islamic State's largest stronghold in the country, and second largest city in Iraq. Iraq's prime minister has said the militias will participate in the campaign to liberate the city.