The Latest: Iraq PM says Mosul abuses not systematic
BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest from the AP’s exclusive interview with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (all times local):
Iraq’s prime minister says initial investigations into allegations of abuse during the Mosul operation found they were carried out by individuals and not “systematic.”
In an interview with The Associated Press Saturday, Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi troops found guilty are being held accountable and “at the moment we are listening to all reports, to all claims, there is no indication that this is a systematic abuse of human rights.”
The operation to retake Mosul was marked by allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detentions by Iraqi security forces, including a wave of alleged killings of suspected IS members at the tail end of the operation captured on mobile phone videos.
Al-Abadi says both soldiers and officers have been held accountable, but officers are largely charged with “negligence,” unless they were found to have issued orders to commit the abuses.
Iraq’s prime minister says Turkey has pledged to leave the controversial military camp in northern Iraq that strained relations between the two countries in the lead-up to the Mosul operation.
“Our Turkish counterparts have promised they will solve this very quickly,” al-Abadi says during an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.
The controversy began in 2015 when a few hundred Turkish troops, tanks and heavy artillery moved into Iraq’s north, sparking repeated calls from Baghdad to withdraw.
Ankara insisted the forces entered with Baghdad’s permission and initially pledged to take part in the fight to retake Mosul.
“They say we’ll pull out when Daesh is defeated,” al-Abadi continued, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “We then said ‘now in Nineveh Daesh is defeated you met your requirement and you met our requirements’ so I think they promised they will evacuate very soon.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Iraq is in “lengthy negotiations” with European nations regarding the return of Iraqi refugees.
Al-Abadi tells The Associated Press Saturday: “We don’t want to lose our citizens. I’m not going to support forced repatriation into Iraq but I think all of Iraqis they found it very tough to be in Europe as a refugee.”
In 2015 alone the United Nations estimated that some 80,000 Iraqis made the treacherous journey to Europe by sea, fleeing an economic downturn and instability in the face of Islamic State group advances
Since then, thousands of Iraqis have returned home, many with the help of the International Organization for Migration.
“They have been promised paradise there, but well, at the end of the day they have seen it. Not paradise,” al-Abadi said.
Iraq’s prime minister says between 970 and 1,260 civilians were killed during the grueling nine-month battle against the Islamic State group in Mosul.
Haider Al-Abadi says: “We’ve tried our utmost to protect the civilians, that’s why our security forces have paid a very high price,” explaining that Iraqi security forces faced more than double the number of casualties than the city’s civilians.
Unlike in past battles against IS, in Mosul, Iraqi officials called on the more than 1 million civilians living in the city to remain in their homes to avoid massive displacement.
The presence of civilians quickly complicated the fight with IS fighters who used them as human shields.
As Iraqi forces punched into Mosul’s more densely populated neighborhoods, civilian casualties spiked and human rights groups warned of the dangers of using large munitions in the packed urban environment.
On March 17, more than 100 civilians were killed in a single U.S. airstrike targeting two IS fighters in west Mosul, according to a Pentagon investigation.
Iraq’s prime minister says the teenage German girl found in Mosul last month who ran away from home after communicating with Islamic State group extremists online is still being held in a Baghdad prison.
Speaking to The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Saturday, Haider Al-Abadi says Iraq’s judiciary will decide if the teen will face the death penalty.
“You know teenagers under certain laws, they are accountable for their actions especially if the act is a criminal activity when it amounts to killing innocent people,” he said.
Sixteen-year-old Linda W. ran away last summer from her hometown of Pulsnitz in eastern Germany. She was found in the basement of a home in Mosul’s Old City by Iraqi forces who are driving IS militants from the city.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says the fate of 39 Indians captured by the Islamic State group when the extremists initially overran Mosul three years ago is still unknown.
Al-Abadi says the situation is “still under investigation at the moment. I cannot comment any further,” in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had told relatives of the workers in July that they might be held in a prison in Badush, northwest of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have taken back from IS.
The abducted workers, mostly from northern India, had been employed by an Iraqi construction company. Thousands of Indians worked and lived in Iraq before IS swept across the country’s north and west in 2014.
Iraqi forces declared victory over IS in Mosul in July after a grueling nine-month fight.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Turkish nationals make up half of the more than 1,300 women and children being held in a camp near Mosul for suspected links to the Islamic State group.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, al-Abadi says many of those detained are not guilty of any crime and his government is “in full communication” with their home counties “to try and find a way to hand them over.”
So far, al-Abadi said, Iraq only has repatriated fewer than 100 people.
Iraqi forces are holding hundreds of IS families at a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq after they surrendered to Kurdish forces at the end of August. That’s when an Iraqi offensive drove the extremist group from the northern town of Tal Afar, near Mosul.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says he’s prepared to intervene militarily if the Kurdish region’s planned independence referendum results in violence.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, Al-Abadi says if the Iraqi population is “threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.”
Al-Abadi called the vote “a dangerous escalation” that will invite violations of Iraq’s sovereignty.
Iraq’s Kurdish region plans to hold the referendum on support for independence from Iraq on Sept. 25 in three governorates that make up their autonomous region, and in disputed areas controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.
Iraq’s Kurds have come under increasing pressure to call off the vote from regional powers and the United States, a key ally.