Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during Iraq’s anti-government protests that left more than 100 people dead, two Iraqi security officials told Reuters.
“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said one of the Iraqi security sources. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”
A second Iraqi security source, who attended daily government security briefings, said militia men clad in black shot protesters on the third day of unrest, when the death toll soared to more than 50 from about half a dozen.
The fighters were directed by Abu Zainab al-Lami, head of security for the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the second source said. The leader was tasked with quashing the protests by a group of other senior militia commanders, the source said. The sources did not say how many snipers were deployed by militia groups.
A spokesman for the PMF, Ahmed al-Asadi, denied the groups took part in the crackdown. “No members were present in the protest areas. None of the elements of the PMF took part in confronting protesters,” Asadi said in a statement to Reuters.