Iraqi premier vows hard line after attacks on Sunni mosques

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed Tuesday to punish those responsible for sectarian attacks as he visited an eastern city that has seen heightened Sunni-Shia tensions over the past week.

At least six Sunni mosques have been blown up in al-Muqdadiyeh in the last week, in apparent retaliation for bombings that killed 25 people at a popular cafe.

Touring the city in Diyala province, al-Abadi praised security forces who, he said, had arrested those responsible for the attacks.

"We will not permit anyone to bear arms outside the law," al-Abadi said. "We consider any unlawful arms to be weapons of the Daesh [Islamic State] gangs and to further their goals."

There have been repeated reports of abuses by pro-government Shiite militias in Diyala, a religiously mixed province north-east of Baghdad, since the Sunni extremist Islamic State captured large areas of northern Iraq in mid-2014.

Last year Human Rights Watch said that 3,000 people had fled al-Muqdadiyeh and been prevented from returning. The group also reported abductions and executions of Sunni civilians.

The Alliance of National Forces, a Sunni entity, earlier announced a one-day boycott of the parliament and government in protest at the al-Muqdadiyeh incidents.

Ahmmed al-Messary, an alliance leader, said in press statements that the alliance would seek international protection for Diyala.

Sectarian abuses by Shiite militias under al-Abadi's predecessor Nuri al-Maliki, as well as harsh security measures that mainly targeted Sunnis, have been seen as helping Islamic State gain support from Sunni civilians.

Al-Abadi promised to wipe out the abuses when he gained power, with international backing, in September 2014.

Last update: Tue, 19/01/2016 - 21:22
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