Middle East

Iraqi army 'had 50,000 ghost troops' on payroll

Iraqi troops and Shia volunteers near Amerli, northern Iraq - 26 November Image copyright EPA
Image caption Iraqi troops are battling Islamic State militants in northern and western Iraq

An investigation into corruption in the Iraqi army has revealed that there were 50,000 false names on its payroll.

Known in the military as "ghost soldiers", they either did not exist or no longer reported for duty, however their salaries were still paid.

A statement from the PM's office said the payments have been stopped.

Correspondents say rampant corruption in the Iraqi army is seen as one of the reasons why it has struggled to contain Islamic State militants.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, quoted by AFP news agency, said the investigation began when the latest salary payments were made.

"Over the past few weeks, the prime minister has been cracking down to expose the ghost soldiers and get to the root of the problem," said Rafid Jaboori.

It is thought that the salaries were siphoned off by corrupt officers.

An unnamed officer told AFP that the 50,000 names include soldiers who had deserted or were killed in recent fighting.

The US has spent billions of dollars trying to build up the Iraqi army.

But security forces were caught by surprise by an IS offensive last summer and lost huge swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.

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