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The New Arab

WATCH: Gunmen set fire to Iraqi paramilitary group's headquarters amid rising anti-Iran sentiment

Qais al-Khazali, the commander of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 May, 2020

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The offices of Iranian-backed paramilitary group Asaib Ahl al-Haq were set ablaze over the weekend, as Iraq witnesses bubbling tensions between the protest movement and Iran-linked factions.
Unidentified gunmen launched an attack on the headquarters of an Iraqi political group linked to the Iranian government in Maysan, southern Iraq, on Saturday.

The assailants set the offices of Asaib Ahl al-Haq - a Shia political party and paramilitary group - ablaze in the attack, which was captured on social media.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq is one of the most prominent factions of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), also known by its Arabic name Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella organisation of largely Shia and Iran-sponsored militia groups now incorporated into the Iraqi state.

A Maysan police spokesman said that the attackers were thought to belong to the anti-government protest movement.

The movement has been staging demonstrations since October, largely against government corruption, unemployment and poor public services, but more recently against increasing Iranian influence in Iraq, including the use of armed pro-Iran groups to violently crack down on the movement.

The spokesman said the headquarters had been empty when they were set alight.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq blamed "collaborators with the United States of America" for the attack, according to a statement.

The group's spokesperson Jawad al-Talibawi said that "US collaborators stormed and set fire to our headquarters."

Al-Talibawi said that the group condemns the "treacherous" attack, and called on security forces to hold those responsible fully accountable for their crimes.

Angry demonstrators have already set fire to the headquarters of political parties and PMF factions during the past months, demanding their expulsion from the provinces.

Tensions have spiked between PMF factions and the protest movement in recent months. 

On Quds Day, celebrated on Friday, Iraqi protesters were captured on video tearing down posters in Iraq's Diyala province that commemorated pro-Iran militia Saraya al-Khorasani, which has been implicated in the murder of Iraqi demonstrators.

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