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Pro-Sistani 'popular mobilization units' break with pro-Iran militias in Iraq

A bold move by PMU groupings aligned with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is set to challenge the level of influence of pro-Iran militias in Iraq.
Sunni volunteers, who have joined the Abbas Fighting Division, shout slogans after a field training in Kerbala, Iraq December 20, 2017. Picture taken December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani - RC116223B030

Four Iraqi militant groups affiliated with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Iraq, said they are withdrawing from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in a move that could result in a shake-up of the military organization. The four paramilitary forces, usually called the Shrine Units, are known to have an uneasy relationship with Iranian-backed militant groups in the country.

In a joint statement issued April 23, the Abbas Combat Division, Imam Ali Combat Division, Ali Akbar Brigade and Ansar al-Marja’iya Brigade said their transfer out of the PMU was authorized by a decree signed by outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who also is the commander in chief of the armed forces.

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