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Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi says will oversee security of Arba’een processions

The chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, says the anti-terror resistance group will continue to defend Iraqi territory and sovereignty.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Falih al-Fayyadh stressed that despite all challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Hashd al-Sha’abi has managed to provide security for Arba’een processions.

Hashd al-Sha’abi forces are involved in many security and support programs to safeguard the rituals, al-Forat news agency quoted Fayyadh as saying.

Arba’een marks the 40th day after the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia imam, along with 72 of his companions in the Battle of Karbala, in southern Iraq, in 680 AD after fighting courageously for justice against the much larger army of the Umayyad caliph, Yazid I.

Each year, Millions of Muslim mourners set off on a symbolic 80-kilometer walk that begins from Najaf, where Imam Hossein’s father Imam Ali (AS) is buried, to the holy city of Karbala, where Imam Hussein’s shrine is located.

Accommodating the pilgrims along the road, as well as in both Najaf and Karbala, are thousands of make-shift tents, also known as mawkibs, that provide a wide range of services from votive food to medical care.

This year, however, foreign pilgrims have been barred from visiting Iraq due to the coronavirus outbreak and the Arba’een march will be held with the participation of local Iraqis only.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Fayyadh said the Arbaeen pilgrimage has united the Iraqi people and Hashd al-Sha’abi, adding that the pro-government group will help the nation solve its problems.

“We promise Iraq’s religious authority and people that Hashd al-Sha’abi will remain the guardian of Iraqi sovereignty and beyond all disputes,” he noted.

Hashd al-Sha’abi is a government-sponsored umbrella organization composed of around 40 factions of volunteer counter-terrorism forces, including mostly Shia Muslims besides Sunni Muslims, Christians and Kurds.

Its formation goes back to the summer of 2014, shortly after Daesh, the world’s most notorious terror group, showed its face and managed to occupy swathes of territory in Iraq.

The file photo shows members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Hashd al-Sha’abi’s efficient role in Daesh’s defeat turned the force into a permanent and broadly-popular feature of Iraq’s social, political and security landscapes, despite attempts by the US and its allies to depict the group’s mission as sectarian in nature.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament recognized Hashd al-Sha’abi as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army, therefore legally establishing it as part of the National Armed Forces.

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