An estimated 75 percent of the locally organized irregular fighters known in Arabic as Sahwa have abandoned their positions in the Hawija area of disputed Kirkuk province, according to one Sahwa leader in the district.
Na’if al-Mulan, the local Sahwa commander, attributed the absences of what he termed "three quarters of the Hawija Sahwa forces" to an ongoing dispute with the Iraqi authorities over the status and compensation of the Sahwa forces, Slogger sources in the Hawija area report.
Hawija, a predominantly Sunni Arab area southwest of Kirkuk city, was known as a stronghold of armed groups until the Sahwa forces, many of them former insurgent fighters, took up their activity, most of them on the payroll of the American forces in Iraq. The Americans have handed the Sahwa portfolio over to the Iraqi government, but Iraq’s governing coalition of Shi'a and Kurdish parties have been slow to meet the Sahwa demands of payment for security duties performed and incorporation into Iraq’s uniformed security forces.
Sahwa checkpoints in the Hawija area have been closed due to staffing shortages, al-Mulan said.
Some residents of the Hawija area told Slogger that they feel trapped between the Iraqi government and the local Sahwa forces, fearing a security deterioration as the dispute unfolds.
One Hawija man told Slogger that he feared a return to the poor security situation that the city saw just two years ago when “we used to find a (decapitated) head per day” in Hawija, in his words. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff in Hawija contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.