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Iraqi parliament passes law legalizing Popular Mobilization Units

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iraqi pro-government fighters from Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) react as they enter the village of al-Tofaha, southeast of the city of Tal Afar, on November 25, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The Iraqi parliament has approved a law to give full legal status to fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, who have joined forces with government forces in counter-terrorism operations against Daesh Takfiri militants across the country.

A total of 208 members of the Council of Representatives on Saturday voted in support of the legislation, which recognizes Hashd al-Shaabi as part of the national armed forces, places the volunteer fighters under the command of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and grants them the right to receive salaries and pensions just like the regular army and police.

The legislation, tabled by the National Iraqi Alliance, also stipulates that Popular Mobilization Units reports directly to the prime minister.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 

Abadi welcomed the law in a statement, saying Hashd al-Shaabi incorporates members of all Iraqi ethnic and religious groups.

“We must show gratitude for the sacrifices offered by those heroic fighters, young and elderly. It is the least we can offer them. The Popular Mobilization Units will represent and defend all Iraqis wherever they are,” the statement read.

Hashd al-Shaabi reportedly numbers more than 100,000 fighters. Iraqi authorities say there are between 25,000 and 30,000 Sunni tribal fighters within the force’s ranks in addition to Kurdish Izadi and Christian units.

Fighters from Popular Mobilization Units have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

Abadi recently charged Hashd al-Shaabi fighters with the demanding task of the liberation of the northern city of Tal Afar, located 63 kilometers west of Mosul.

Jawad al-Talabawi, a spokesman for the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq volunteer forces, said on Wednesday that the Imam Hussein Brigade of the force has undertaken the mission.

Iraqi pro-government fighters from Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) enter the village of al-Tofaha, southeast of the city of Tal Afar, on November 25, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Talabawi added that the Tal Afar liberation operation differs from that of Mosul as the former requires highly trained forces capable of fighting in urban areas.

Also on Saturday, Popular Mobilization Units recaptured the village of al-Baynounah, south of Tal Afar, following fierce skirmishes with Daesh terrorists. An unspecified number of the extremists were reportedly killed during the gun battle.

Later in the day, Hashd al-Shaabi forces wrested control over al-Ajbouri and al-Fotsah villages west of Tal Afar. The volunteer forces also freed 400 families in al-Ajbouri. The civilians were being used as human shields by the terrorists.

Additionally, Popular Mobilization Units seized full control of Tal Samir Kabir region in the northern province of Nineveh.

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