MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – The wreckage of vehicles used by militants from the Islamic State as car bombs and other metal debris from the war in Iraq are now helping to finance their Iran-backed enemies, industry officials say.
Scrap and war remnants are located near the ruined Grand Mosque of al-Nuri in the Old City of Mosul in Iraq on February 2, 2019. Reception on February 2, 2019. REUTERS / Khalid al-Mousily
Shi & # 39; Muslim paramilitaries who helped the Iraqi armed forces displace Sunni ISIS from its last strongholds in Iraq have taken control of the flourishing trade in scrap metal retrieved on the battlefield, the traders and others associated with the Trading are familiar.
The owners of Scrapyard, a steelworks operator and legislator from around the city of Mosul, the de facto IS capital from 2014 to 2017, told Reuters how the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) made millions of dollars out of selling everything destroyed cars and damaged weapons on water tanks and window frames.
The PMF denies the involvement. "The PMF has nothing to do with trading activities in Mosul, scrap or anything else," a PMF security official in Mosul said.
But interviews at junk yards and with those from industry confirm reports from lawmakers that the militias oversee or direct the transport of scrap, which is then melted down for use in building materials, and make a big profit.
These sources indicate that PMF groups use their growing influence – and sometimes, according to some witnesses, intimidation – to control the market and control the transport of metal from damaged cities like Mosul to Kurdish-led northern Iraq, where it is bought and melted in steel.
With little of this steel, battle-destroyed areas are rebuilt. Instead, go to Kurdistan or the southern Shiite provinces.
Trade is one way in which Shiite paramilitaries, now part of the Iraqi security forces, are turning their control over what was once the IS caliphate into a source of wealth.
The growing influence of the PMF umbrella group, whose most powerful factions are supported by Iran, worries the United States and Israel as tensions with Iran increase, extending its influence across a corridor of territories across Iraq and Syria secures Lebanon.
"I LIBERATE – YOU HAVE GUNS"
At a junkyard last month near a PMF checkpoint on the outskirts of Mosul, workers sorted metal from a pile of car parts, electric generators, and squeeze tanks.
The owner of the junkyard said PMF groups would buy tons of scrap metal every day and sell up to twice the price in Kurdish areas – or allow traders to do so in exchange for reducing their profits for passage through the areas they control.
"This yard is controlled by a PMF faction from another across the street," he said. He declined to give his name for fear of retaliation by militias.
"I am only allowed to sell to certain dealers – they are either members of the militia or have a deal with them. You can not get metal waste through checkpoints without signing a contract with the PMF, "he said.
Ahmed al-Kinani, a legislator representing the political arm of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a powerful paramilitary group with 15 seats in parliament, accused this trade of individuals "exploiting the destruction of the war.
"The PMF would not accept that. If there are isolated cases, the state must intervene, "he said.
But the owner of the junkyard who said he buys scrap for 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($ 84) per ton and sells it for 110,000 dinars, said the PMF or traders with whom they work sell him in Kurdistan for until to 200 USD per ton. He said the PMF had taken control of his farm.
"One day two men arrived in a pickup truck with pistols and told me to lower the price and only sell to them. I agree – they have guns, "said the owner.
A worker at the junkyard described a similar system and prices, though he did not mention any intimidation.
In Mosul scrap is bought even cheaper. One boy said he sold 50 dinars per kilogram (42 USD per tonne) to a junkyard in the old town of Mosul. The site belongs to a PMF group, he and several other residents said.
The yard contained steel bars and canopies from destroyed buildings and household appliances. The wreckage of car bombs and destroyed vehicles, many of which were brought from the Mosul area in the months following the battle that ended in 2017, is now less severe.
In Anbar province, west of Baghdad, drivers and dealers stated that the PMF was holding a pile of destroyed cars in sight, visible from the main road near Falluja, where in 2015 the battle was intense.
The traders said the PMF or the companies The militias have made arrangements with rental drivers to transport metal from the Anbar province to Kurdistan or from the south to Basra.
Alaa, a driver who has used an alias, said the permit to transport scrap lay with the PMF. Legislators and traders said that the PMF sometimes transported open scrap in their own trucks. Reuters could not confirm that.
STEEL FROM THE "CALIPHATE"
The volume of scrap moved has diminished since the immediate aftermath of the war with the IS, but millions of tons of debris, including metal, are still devastated areas.
Mohammed Keko, director of a steel plant near Erbil in the Kurdish region, said he had purchased at least 300 to 400 tons of mainly Mosul scrap every day since the city was retaken by the IS.
"Right now, we're buying for $ 150 to $ 160 a ton. It depends on what traders have to pay for it, "he said.
Keko said the PMF controlled the transportation of scrap, sometimes stopped for months, while militias did not agree with prices or traders could not pay enough to cut through cargo.
The steel construction bars, which Erbil Steel Co produces from scrap, are sold partly in the Kurdistan region, but especially in the southern Shiite provinces of Iraq, Keko said.
Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan, governor of Nineveh province, where Mosul is the capital, also said that the PMF garbage was bought, but rejected the claims of some local lawmakers to allow the paramilitaries to trade check.
"They buy it (but) there is no law prohibiting the purchase of scrap metal," he said.
Legislators say the steel should return to the Sunni territories reconquered by ISIS to aid reconstruction. They make up, in part, the removal of metal scrap for sale or use in other provinces for slow reconstruction.
"It's material to steal that belongs to the state or people," said Mohammed Nuri Abed Rabbo, a former Member of Parliament. "The PMF do twice as much for what they or their dealers buy the scrap. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of tons.
Report by John Davison; Additional reporting Kamal Ayyash in Falluja, Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, editors of Timothy Heritage