Iraq’s prime minister has called on security forces to arrest anyone breaking the law in Tikrit as Sunni politicians reported that looting had taken place in the city after it was retaken from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group this week.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi’s office issued a statement on Friday calling “on the forces in Tikrit to arrest any person” breaking the law there “and to preserve the belongings and facilities in Salahuddin province”.
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Local Sunni officials claimed rogue security force elements and members of the Shia paramilitary groups burned homes and stole goods within hours of the Iraqi government declaring on Wednesday that forces had retaken the Sunni Muslim city, which ISIL captured in June.
Ahmed al-Kraim, the head of the Salahuddin provincial council, said fighters he identified as belonging to the Shia militias had burnt “hundreds of houses” over the past two days.
“Our city was burnt in front of our eyes. We can’t control what is going on,” Kraim said on Friday.
Another member of the provincial council, Khalid al-Jassam, said the local government was calling for the Shia militias to leave and for the military and local and federal police to guard the city.
Member of parliament Mutashar al-Samarrai said 400 houses and 500 shops had been set ablaze or robbed since Thursday.
The ability to protect Sunni areas from revenge attacks and criminal actions is a central challenge for Abbadi as he seeks to lead the Shia paramilitary volunteers and security forces in the fight to retake nearly a third of Iraq from ISIL.
The Iraqi government claimed victory over the armed group in Tikrit after a month-long battle for the city fought by militias in combination with the Iraqi army and federal police.