BAGHDAD – Sunni politicians said looting raged out of control in Tikrit on Friday, hours after Iraq’s prime minister called on security forces to arrest anyone breaking the law after the city had been wrested back from Islamic State militants.
The rampage of theft and burning began on Wednesday, within hours of the Iraqi government declaring that security forces and Shiite paramilitary forces had retaken the Sunni Muslim city, which the Islamic State group captured in June.
Sunni lawmakers blamed rogue security forces and members of the Shiite paramilitary groups for the chaos.
Ahmed al-Kraim, the head of the Salahuddin provincial council, said fighters belonging to the Shiite paramilitary groups had burned “hundred of houses” over the past two days.
“Our city was burned 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 Shiite 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 Shiite 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 monthlong battle for the city fought by militiamen in tandem with the Iraqi Army and federal police.
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