Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi MPs for Diyala province, including Speaker of Parliament Salim Al-Jabouri, have received death threats warning them to stop all investigations into a massacre that took place in a village in the region last week, according to one MP from the province.
Around 70 Sunni men were killed in the village of Barwanah last Monday in what one Diyala MP called “an act of systematic mass murder.”
Government troops and Shi’ite militias had entered the village days before as part of an offensive to rid the area of fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While many Shi’ite politicians in the country have blamed ISIS for the killings, several Sunni politicians held the volunteer Shi’ite militias responsible, and called for an immediate investigation.
They included MPs from Diyala province, all six of whom have now received death threats from the government official placed in charge of the village, ordering them to stop all investigations into the incident, according to Salah Al-Jabouri, one of the MPs.
“The death threats came via telephone and were directed at all Diyala’s MPs as well as Sunni members of the provincial council,” Jabouri told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He also claimed the committee charged with investigating the incident had not yet arrived at the village, saying there was a “premeditated and deliberate ploy to delay the investigation and eventually pin the crime onto an unknown individual.”
Diyala’s MPs may now head to international criminal tribunals if the investigation into the killings is not taken up seriously by the Iraqi government, Jabouri said.
Jabouri met with Defense Minister Khaled Al-Obaidi, who heads the committee investigating the killings, on Sunday. In a statement, Jabouri said he had been keen to “stress the importance of speeding up the committee’s investigation and the announcement of its results.”
Volunteer militias, both Sunni and Shi’ite, have become a more prominent phenomenon in Iraq in recent years, especially after the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, when such militias were co-opted by Iraqi and US forces to help in the fight against Al-Qaeda in the country.
However, some of those militias have also carried out thousands of sectarian killings, “cleansing” whole neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities of members of rival sects.
More recently, volunteer militias, especially Shi’ite groups, have been on the rise in light of the fight against ISIS, aiding Iraqi government forces in battling the group.
Some of these Shi’ite militias have been accused of carrying out a new wave of indiscriminate sectarian killings in communities suspected of harboring ISIS sympathizers, with the massacre in Barwanah the latest such accusation.