By Ali Latif
Azzaman, January 6, 2015
Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric has issued a decree banning looting of property by Iraqi forces and popular militias.
The decree comes amid reports that the advancing Iraqi security forces expropriate personal belongings of inhabitants of areas they retake from Islamic State militants.
The looting has raised fears and anger of mainly Sunni Muslims whose villages and towns Islamic State jihadists had occupied.
“The property and belongings of people in liberated areas are not war booty,” Sistani’s decree said, adding that the government was called upon to punish those found involved in looting.
Reports say that militias deployed with Iraqi army units looted the towns of Saadiya and Jalula in the Province of Diyala following their recapture from the Islamic State.
Personal belongings in some areas retaken from Islamic State are collected from houses and sold in auctions.
The stolen items include refrigerators, household utensils, electrical appliances, cooling gadgets and even cars.
Sistani was reported to have been shocked by news of looting by Iraqi security forces and his decree included tough language on looters and the government for failing to take immediate action.
In some auctions cattle and other household animals of liberated villages were exhibited.
“The belongings of citizens in areas which Iraqi troops enter are not war booty. Their theft or destruction is prohibited and is a crime against religion,” Sistani’s decree said. “Stealing people’s property will have far reaching negative consequences on peaceful coexistence among the citizens of the same county.”
Sistani urged the troops to “fear God and save themselves from condemnation in afterlife.”