A high-ranking member of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has brushed off calls by the US to lay down their weapons, stressing that they will continue to defend the country.
The PMU’s deputy chief, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, made the remarks during an interview with The Associated Press on Monday.
“The future of the PMU is to defend Iraq,” he added
“The Iraqi army and Iraqi police say they cannot operate without the support of the Hashd,” he noted, using the group’s Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi.
Earlier in the month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the PMUs to return to their homes or leave the country.
Al-Muhandis brushed off Tillerson’s demands, saying, “Tillerson is asleep.”
Washington’s demands were also slammed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. “No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” Abadi’s media office said in a statement released on October 23.
Hashd al-Sha’abi is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 groups, which are mainly Shia Muslims. The force reportedly numbers more than 100,000 fighters. Iraqi authorities say there are between 25,000 and 30,000 Sunni tribal fighters within its ranks in addition to Kurdish Izadi and Christian units.
The fighters 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. Daesh launched a terrorist offensive inside Iraq in 2014. It swiftly took over territory in the Arab country and posed a threat to seize Baghdad.