Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces to oppose vandalism in the city of Tikrit, retaken from the Islamic State group this week, and arrest those responsible, his office said Friday.
Security and military forces were ordered to "deal with cases of vandalism" carried out by "gangs" seeking to tarnish the achievements of government forces and allied paramilitaries, a statement said.
Abadi also called on "forces located in Tikrit to arrest everyone who carries out such acts, and preserve properties and facilities in Salaheddin province," of which Tikrit is the capital.
The statement did specify what prompted the orders, but militiamen have spray painted the names of their groups on homes, shops and other buildings, and also looted clothing and toiletries from shops.
Policemen from the rapid response forces have written graffiti on walls in Tikrit as well.
Militiamen have also admitted to intentionally burning houses in other recaptured areas that were believed to have been used by IS or to belong to its supporters.
A number of homes and businesses were burning in Tikrit earlier this week, though at least some of the fires were apparently related to efforts to clear the city of bombs.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric who is revered by millions, called on security forces and allied paramilitaries to "preserve and guard citizens' properties in areas that have been liberated."
Doing so is a "religious and national and moral duty," Sistani said in remarks read by his representative at Friday prayers in Karbala.
Additionally, "it has an important role in encouraging those who have not yet decided to participate in liberating their areas to decide to participate," he said.
"This is an important gain for all."
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