April 3, 2015 / 12:16 PM / 3 years ago

Iraqi PM orders arrest of lawless gangs looting in Tikrit

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Sunni politicians said looting raged out of control in Tikrit on Friday, hours after Iraqi’s prime minister called on security forces to arrest anyone breaking the law after the city had been wrested back from Islamic State militants.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi tours the city of Tikrit after Iraq security forces regained control from Islamist State militants, April 1, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

The rampage of theft and burning began on Wednesday, within hours of the Iraqi government declaring that security forces and Shi‘ite paramilitaries had retaken the Sunni Muslim city, which Islamic State captured in June.

Sunni lawmakers blamed rogue security force elements and members of the Shi‘ite paramilitary groups for the chaos.

Ahmed al-Kraim, the head of the Salahuddin provincial council, told Reuters fighters he identified as belonging to the Shi‘ite paramilitaries had burnt “hundred of houses” over the past two days.

“Our city was burnt in front of our eyes. We can’t control what is going on,” said Kraim, who left the city for Baghdad late on Friday to avoid the carnage.

Another member of the provincial council, Khalid al-Jassam, said the local government was calling for the Shi‘ite 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.

Earlier, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s office issued a statement calling “on the forces in Tikrit to arrest any person” breaking the law there “and to preserve the belongings and facilities in Salahuddin province”.

The ability to protect Sunni areas from revenge attacks and criminal actions is a central challenge for Abadi as he seeks to lead the Shi‘ite paramilitary volunteers and security forces in the fight to retake nearly a third of Iraq from Islamic State.

The Iraqi government claimed victory over Islamic State insurgents in Tikrit after a month-long battle for the city fought by militiamen in tandem with the Iraqi army and federal police.

Reporting by Saif Hameed, Ned Parker; Editing by Alison Williams

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