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World

February 20, 2017

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US-led coalition praises ‘militias’ fighting in Iraq

US-led coalition praises ‘militias’ fighting in Iraq

BAGHDAD: The US-led coalition assisting Iraqi forces in their war on the Islamic State group on Sunday praised the militias involved in the fighting, despite some of those groups’ links to Iran.

The coalition, which nominally includes more than 60 nations, has been keen to keep its distance with the Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary organisation dominated by Tehran-backed militias.

But the commander of the coalition battling IS in Iraq and Syria, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, had rare words of praise for them in a statement coinciding with the launch on Sunday of an offensive on the west bank of Mosul.

"The entire Coalition salutes and wishes God’s blessings on the brave Iraqi soldiers, police and militias who today are fighting to liberate their country and make the region and the world a safer place," Townsend said in a coalition statement. The Hashed al-Shaabi forces have played a key role in the fight against IS since the Jihadists seized around a third of Iraq in 2014.

However their links to Iran and allegations of rights abuses against them have meant that the coalition has refrained from any direct support, focusing its assistance on the army, the police and elite forces.

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