Iraq arrests pro-Iran militiamen accused of killing protester

Iraq's new prime minister, Mustafa Kadhimi, ordered the raid after protests resumed in the southern province of Basra.

al-monitor Mourners carry the coffin of an Iraqi demonstrator who was killed during ongoing anti-government protests in Basra, Iraq, May 11, 2020. Photo by REUTERS.

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iraqi politics, mustafa al-kadhimi, iraq protests, basra

May 11, 2020

In a rare dawn raid on Monday, Iraqi security forces arrested at least five men affiliated with an Iran-aligned militia accused of shooting at protesters over the weekend. 

Police in the southern province of Basra stormed the Thaar Allah office, confiscating weapons and ammunition. A government statement said bullets had been fired at demonstrators Sunday by militiamen inside the building, killing one protester and injuring others. 

After a brief lull brought on by coronavirus lockdown measures, anti-government protests resumed in Iraq over the weekend in Basra, the capital Baghdad and across several predominantly Shiite provinces. 

Mass protests aimed at dismantling the political establishment and bringing an end to foreign interference in the country erupted in October, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi. His successor, Mustafa Kadhimi, was sworn in as Iraq’s new prime minister last Thursday following months of political deadlock. 

Kadhimi, the country’s former intelligence chief, has promised to release most of those detained for protesting and provide compensation to the families of hundreds of others who died while doing so.

During Iraq’s months-long protests, security forces and other armed groups repeatedly opened fire on demonstrators, killing over 500 and injuring thousands more. 

“Under my direction, our security forces carried out operations to detain those behind assaulting protesters in Basra, based on judicial warrants,” Kadhimi tweeted Monday. “I promised that those who have spilled Iraqi blood will not be allowed to rest and we are honoring that promise.”

Kadhimi received a congratulatory phone call from President Donald Trump on Monday, his first conversation with the American president since assuming office. The United States and Iraq are preparing to meet next month to discuss the status of US troops in the country.