Iraq’s Sunni Muslim officials and religious leaders accused Shiite militias of burning a Sunni man alive in an incident they say shows the risk of using the gunmen to fight the militant group Islamic State.
A video circulated on social media networks purportedly shows fighters from the Imam Ali Brigades, a Shiite militia, smiling and laughing while a man is burnt alive near a town in Anbar province, Iraq’s biggest. It wasn’t possible to verify the authenticity of the video.
The Iraqi joint forces command, a body that includes the Shiite militias and Iraqi security personnel under the command of Iraq’s armed forces leadership, denied that actions in the video had been conducted by the militias.
“The video showing one of Da’esh’s militants being burned in a barbaric way and away from the human standards and morals of our fighters is unfairly linked to one of Hashd forces units,” the command said in a statement, using another name for Islamic State.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, a Shiite, ordered the militias to deploy in Anbar after Islamic State militants overran government and tribal forces in May to seize Ramadi, the provincial capital, located about 110 kilometers (68 miles) west of Baghdad.
Sunni leaders and international human rights groups have accused the militias, some of which are backed by Iran, of sectarian violence in other areas of the country.
“Such actions will increase fears among Sunnis and raise so many question marks on where this country is heading,” said Hamed al-Mutlaq, a Sunni lawmaker who said that he had watched the video.
The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, a religious body representing Sunnis, described the burning as a crime against humanity.
Saad al-Hadithi, an Iraqi government spokesman, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.