Iraq blames Saudi Arabia for 'promoting genocide' by backing Sunni militants
Saudi Arabia should be held responsible for militant financing and crimes committed by insurgent groups in Iraq, the Baghdad government charged on Tuesday.
Comments from Riyadh indicates it is "siding with terrorism", the cabinet said in a statement issued by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office. "We strongly condemn this stance," the statement read.
"We hold it (Saudi Arabia) responsible for what these groups are receiving in terms of financial and moral support."
It continued: "The Saudi government should be held responsible for the dangerous crimes committed by these terrorist groups."
The statement came just days after Saudi Arabia and Qatar blamed "sectarian" policies by Iraq's Shiite-led government against the Sunni Arab minority for the unrest that has swept the country, AFP reports.
The unrest "could not have taken place if it was not for the sectarian and exclusionary policies implemented in Iraq over the past years that threatened its stability and sovereignty," the Saudi government said in a statement.
In March, Maliki accused both Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting terrorism in Iraq.
The Islamic militants who seized cities in Iraq last week posted graphic photos allegedly showing their gunmen shooting scores of captured Iraqi army's soldiers, while the prime minister vowed Sunday to "liberate every inch" of captured territory.
The pictures on a militant website appear to show masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, loading the captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. The final images show the bodies of the captives soaked in blood after being shot at several locations.
Chief military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi confirmed the photos’ authenticity and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas held by ISIL. He told The Associated Press that an examination of the images by military experts showed that about 170 soldiers were shot to death by the militants after their capture.
Captions on the photos showing the soldiers after they were shot say "hundreds have been liquidated," but the total could not immediately be verified.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the ISIL militants’ claim of killing the Iraqi troops "is horrifying and a true depiction of the bloodlust that those terrorists represent."
She added that a claim that 1,700 were killed could not be confirmed by the US.
On Friday, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned against "murder of all kinds" and other war crimes in Iraq, saying the number killed in recent days may run into the hundreds. She said in a statement that her office had received reports that militants rounded up and killed Iraqi soldiers as well as 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul. Her office also heard of “summary executions and extrajudicial killings” after ISIL militants overran Iraqi cities and towns, she said.
The grisly images could sap the morale of Iraq’s security forces, but they could also heighten sectarian tensions. Thousands of Shiites are already heeding a call from their most revered spiritual leader to take up arms against the Sunni militants who have swept across the north in the worst instability in Iraq since the US withdrawal in 2011.
Although the government bolstered defenses around Baghdad, a series of explosions inside the capital killed at least 19 people and wounded more than 40, police and hospital officials said.
The photos of the Iraqi soldiers purported to have been killed did not provide a date or location, but it was reported the killings took place in Salahuddin province, with capital in Tikrit.
The photo captions said their deaths were to avenge the killing of an ISIL commander, Abdul-Rahman al-Beilawy. His death was reported by both the government and ISIL shortly before the al-Qaida splinter group’s lightning offensive.
"This is the fate that awaits the Shiites sent by Nouri to fight the Sunnis," one caption read, apparently referring to al-Maliki.
Most of the soldiers in the photos were in civilian clothes. Some were shown wearing military uniforms underneath, indicating they may have hastily disguised themselves as civilians to try to escape.
Some of the soldiers appeared to be pleading for their lives; others seemed terrified.
All the soldiers appeared to be in their early 20s, with some wearing European soccer jerseys. Some of the militants wore black baggy pants and shirts, many of them had sandals or flip flops.
Iraqi authorities appear to be trying to limit the dissemination of such images and other militant propaganda being shared through social media and to deny the militants their use for operational purposes.
The United Nations has relocated 58 staff to Amman, Jordan from Baghdad in neighboring Iraq and may move more people in the coming days, a spokesman said on Monday, after Sunni Islamist militants seized the north of the country.
"Some 58 staff have been moved from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan. The intention is to relocate them in Erbil, in Iraq. Some other relocations may also take place in the next few days," UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.
He said before the 58 staff were relocated the United Nations had "less than 200 international non-essential and essential staff in Baghdad and the environments around it" as part of its political mission in Iraq.