Iraqi security and local sources have confirmed that Shia militias from the government-aligned Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) entered Rutba in western Iraq and used explosives to destroy a mosque whilst also abducting civilians.
Security sources confirmed to Al Jazeera that the Abu Fadl Al-Abbas militia, one of the many militias in the PMF, entered Rutba mere hours after it had been retaken from Daesh, who captured the town and held it for approximately three days earlier this week.
The Shia militias then proceeded to desecrate the largest mosque in the city before blowing it up.
Following this, PMF militiamen abducted more than 20 locals and took them to an undisclosed location. According to security sources, the abductions occurred as the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) looked on.
These attacks have aggravated fears in the community of sectarian reprisals, whereby the PMF views Sunni Arabs as being members or supporters of Daesh.
Anadolu reported a local tribal leader, Sheikh Isam Al-Kubaisi, as saying that the militias destroyed privately owned cars and looted homes before setting them ablaze.
“Rutba is now witnessing revenge attacks on a large scale committed by the [Shia] militias against the people of Rutba. They are accusing them of being [Daesh] supporters,” Al-Kubaisi said.
These attacks have aggravated fears in the community of sectarian reprisals, as it is not the first time that the PMF have destroyed mosques and abducted and then murdered civilians.
The Bukhari Mosque in Muqdadiya in Diyala province has been attacked several times by Shia militias over the past five years. Its imam was killed by militias in 2011, and the mosque itself was blown up earlier this year.
Atrocities have also been committed by the PMF and ISF in towns recaptured from Daesh control. During the battle to retake Fallujah last summer, almost 650 Sunni Arabs were abducted from Saqlawiya by militias and are now feared dead.
The wanton destruction of civilian property is a war crime, as is the abduction, torture and murder of civilians.