Iraqi forces raid Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah base, 14 arrested

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Iraqi safety forces have raided a base belonging to a strong Iran-backed armed group in southern Baghdad and detained at the very least 14 militia members, sources have instructed Al Jazeera.

The raid late on Thursday was probably the most brazen motion by Iraqi forces in opposition to a significant Iran-backed group in years and focused the Kataib Hezbollah faction, which United States officers have accused of firing rockets at bases internet hosting US troops and different services in Iraq.

Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn, reporting from Baghdad, stated Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service seized at the very least 10 rockets through the operation, which was “carried out an in effort to pre-empt an impending rocket attack on the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport, both of which house US troops”.

“Subsequently, dozens of armed Kataib Hezbollah fighters arrived in the Green Zone and laid siege to one of the buildings belonging to the Counter Terrorism Service, demanding the release of the detainees, claiming they were arrested illegally without an arrest warrant,” she stated.

Kataib Hezbollah itself is a part of Iraq’s safety equipment, she famous, because the group is a part of the state-funded Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a Shia paramilitary dominated by Iran-backed armed teams. 

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The raid was the primary signal that the federal government of Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, intends to make good on guarantees to take powerful motion in opposition to teams which have focused US installations.

It happened after various rocket assaults near the US embassy in Baghdad and different US army websites within the nation in current weeks.

“If those detained are released, this would be a rather embarrassing to the new government,” stated Foltyn, “as the raid was carried out on al-Kadhimi’s orders and the prime minister has made it one of his priorities to constrain the weapons in the hands of the state and to rein in groups such as Kataib Hezbollah.”

Fears of escalation 

The Reuters information company stated a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq and Iraqi paramilitary sources denied claims that any of these arrested had been handed over to the US army.

One authorities official instructed Reuters three commanders of Kataib Hezbollah had been detained through the raid. One of these commanders was an Iranian, he stated. But a second PMF official instructed the company no commanders of Kataib Hezbollah have been arrested.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran particularly on Iraqi soil have been excessive for at the very least a yr.

It nearly spilled into regional battle in January after the US killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike at Baghdad airport.

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Foltyn stated Thursday’s occasions have been “very much a throwback to December 31 of last year, when Kataib Hezbollah laid siege to the US embassy inside the Green Zone after the US attacked its base on the Iraqi-Syrian border”.

She added: “Those events ended up escalating, culminating in the killing of Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil. There is fear that events could once again escalate.”

Yasmin Amin-Zaki, Iraq analyst and former chief of communications for the United Nations mission in Iraq, described the raid as an effort by al-Kadhimi to say management over the state.

Since the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), “it’s been increasingly clear that the biggest threat to the Iraqi state is these Shia militias,” she instructed Al Jazeera from Memphis within the US.

But curbing the PMF’s affect stays an enormous problem for al-Kadhimi due to Iran’s assist for the paramilitary pressure, which means the proxy battle between US and Iran was prone to proceed in Iraq, stated Ami-Zaki.

“What we’ll likely see now is a stalemate between the two, as they continue with this proxy war. And I think it’s increasingly clear now – particularly following the events of December 31 – that these two countries are not necessarily interested in going to war with one another. But they are very much interested and motivated to continue this proxy war in Iraq,” she added. 

Both Tehran and Washington supported al-Kadhimi in turning into prime minister in May.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and information businesses