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Iraq PM Makes First Move against Iran's Militias

Iraq PM Makes First Move against Iran's Militias

Tuesday, 12 May, 2020 - 05:00
Iraqi demonstrators take part in an ongoing anti-government protest, in Baghdad, Iraq November 1, 2019. (Reuters)

Iraqi security forces carried out on Monday the first raid under the tenure of new Prime Minister Mustapha al-Kadhimi, targeting the headquarters of a faction that is loyal to Iran in the southern city of Basra.

The office did not name the faction, but police in Basra said that they shut down the offices of the Thar Allah Islamic Party that has been blamed for opening fire at anti-government protesters, leaving many dead and injured.

Kadhimi's office said that the security forces arrested everyone inside the building and confiscated weapons and ammunition. The detainees will be referred to the judiciary to "receive justice."

Also on Monday, a large poster of slain Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes was removed from near Baghdad airport. The two figures were killed in a US drone strike near the facility in January.

The pro-Iran PMF had previously denied that the poster was removed, saying instead that it was blown away by a recent storm in Baghdad. It later put up a new poster, this time of Muhandes alone.

Later on Monday, Kadhimi vowed that he will crack down on everyone responsible for shedding the blood of the Iraqi people.

In a tweet, he said of the Basra unrest: "We had pledged that those responsible for shedding the blood of Iraqis will not rest easy and we are now fulfilling this pledge." He also defended peaceful protests.

Monday's raid was the first of its kind against any pro-Iran armed faction that is widely suspected of being behind years of assassination of journalists, activists and local rivals.

Head of the Thar Allah Islamic Party, Youssef al-Moussawi, commonly known as "Sayyed Youssef", is among the most notorious militants to take part in the armed conflicts that had taken place in Basra soon after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.

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