Nick McDonell

No one has a monopoly on violence in Iraq today. Competing Shia militias are as powerful as the army and police. They are seen as integral to the fight against Isis and officially sanctioned by the state, though they’re widely reported to commit war crimes, mostly against Sunnis. The Imam Ali Brigade, a Shia militia known for posing with severed heads and for its close ties to both the Iranian and Iraqi governments, also maintains a close relationship with the Baghdad Teaching Hospital. ‘I deal with the Imam Ali Brigade,’ Dr Rafid Al Waly, the hospital’s chief resident, said. ‘I ask them to protect my doctors and my patients. They co-operate with us and, in return, we provide services to their men.’ It was 2 p.m. and Rafid had been treating victims of an Isis bombing into the early hours of the morning. The day before, in the Shia neighbourhood of Sadr City, a pair of suicide bombers had ridden motorcycles into a mobile phone market. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the capital’s deadliest of the year so far, and more than seventy people had been killed with a hundred more wounded. Rafid estimated that his last patient – male, 58, perforated small intestine – hadn’t been stitched up until just before 3 a.m.

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