Eight-hundred Middle East Christians have volunteered to join the Hashd al-Shaabi Shiite militias, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units, the Iraqi Al Mada reported Sunday.
Al Mada is a daily newspaper headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq, a country that continues to be run by Shiite-led governance. The Kurdish news network Rudaw translated the Al Mada report into English.
The Iraqi paper reports that the Christian fighters are training to take back the ISIS-held stronghold city of Mosul from the Sunni jihadi fighters.
“As local forces prepare for the Mosul operation to clear out ISIS gunmen, 800 Christian volunteers have also joined the Battalion of Babylon that belongs to Hashd al-Shaabi,” Al Mada reported.
The 800 Christian fighters have been split into two groups. One is training in Baghdad, and the other is getting ready for the Mosul battle in Salahadin province, which envelops the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra.
“The battalion is a special military arrangement for Christians under the control of Hashd al-Shaabi,” a source told Al Mada.
Moen al-Kazemi, a Shiite militia commander, told the Iraqi daily that the group has mobilized 100,000 volunteers to fight against ISIS.
Many Shiites felt a religious obligation to join the battle and defend their lands following a call Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top-ranking Shiite cleric, made to fight ISIS.
However, analysts have found that the Shiite militias have very close ties to the government of Iran, regarded as the world’s preeminent state-sponsor of terrorism.
The Shiite militias have carried out atrocities that experts have described as on par with those the Islamic State committed.
In March, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, warned that the Shiite militias may resort to “acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing” against innocent Sunnis.