US sanctions two leaders of Iranian-linked militias in Iraq

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The US added two leaders of Iranian-linked militias in Iraq to its sanctions list on Thursday, designating them under the Magnitsky Act as “perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.”

Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado both lead militias part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) with close ties to Iran.

Al-Kildani, the leader of the 50th “Babylon” Brigade, is accused by the US of “serious human rights abuse.”

Based in Iraq’s northwestern Ninewa Province, the 50th Brigade is accused by the US Treasury of looting, extortion and intimidation of the local population, making it “the primary impediment to the return of internally displaced persons to the Ninewa Plain.”

The US Treasury alleges that al-Kildani can be seen cutting the ear off a handcuffed detainee in a video that circulated in May, 2018.

Qado, the leader of the 30th Brigade, is accused of commanding the brigade while it conducted similar human rights abuses including extortion, kidnapping, and rape.

Both al-Kildani and Qado are members of ethnic minorities: al-Kildani is a Christian, while Qado is a member of the Shabak minority who live around Mosul.

Both their militias operate as part of the PMUs, the Shiite-majority militias formed in 2015.

Although the PMUs are officially led by the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, deputy commander Jamal Jaafar al-Ibrahimi, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, is widely seen as the real leader. Al-Mohandes heads the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, which has been recently accused of carrying out a drone attack on Saudi Arabia and has close ties with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Alongside al-Kildani and Qado, two former governors of Iraqi provinces were also sanctioned for corruption.

Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan, the former governor Ninewa Province, and Ahmed al-Jubouri, the former governor of Salah al-Din province, both received sanctions for corruption and bribery.

“The United States is taking action against four individuals in Iraq implicated in serious human rights abuse or corruption,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

“We will continue to hold accountable persons associated with serious human rights abuse, including persecution of religious minorities, and corrupt officials who exploit their positions of public trust to line their pockets and hoard power at the expense of their citizens,” Mandelker added.

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