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Iraq intelligence chief sacked in new premier's latest military shakeup

Kadhimi's government has described the purge as "restorative" [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 July, 2020

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Observers say the reshuffle is linked to investigations into the deadly suppression of protests which broke out in October last year.

Iraq's defence ministry on Wednesday announced a major shake-up across several key posts, as the country’s new incumbent Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi struggles to assert dominance over Iran-backed militia groups which have penetrated the country's security forces.

Director of Military Intelligence Saad Al-Alaq and the Governor of Dhi Qar Lieutenant General Jamil Al Shammari have both been dismissed, The New Arab’s Arabic-language edition reported.

The apparent purge, which Kadhimi's government has described as "restorative", will also target several senior military officials.

Sources within the Iraqi parliament told The New Arab that changes were also expected among the ranks of the federal police and reconstruction department.

Observers say the reshuffle appears to be linked to investigations into the violent suppression of protesters during mass demonstrations which broke out in October last year.

Sparked by rampant corruption, poor public services, and high rates of poverty, more than 700 protesters were killed and nearly 27,000 injured. After taking office, Kadhimi vowed to "hold to account all those who shed Iraqi blood".

Activists and protesters took to the streets last month to decry government inaction over pursuing security officers and militiamen responsible for the killings, as well as failing to protect protesters from militias acting outside state authority.

Al-Kadhimi recent purge appears to fall short of their protester demands.

On Twitter, a spokesman for Iraq’s commander in chief, Yehia Rasool, announced that upon their dismissal, intelligence chief Saad Al-Alaq and Dhi Qar Governor Jamil Al-Shammari were merely transferred to background roles in the defence ministry.

Al-Shammari had earned the name of "the butcher of Nasiriyah" for his alleged role in the killing of at least 29 Iraqi protesters in a brutal crackdown last year, pushing former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign a day later. 

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's latest move is likely an attempt to project an appearance of power and reach, one which continues to be bought into question.

Read more: The Iraq Report: Pro-Iran militias reassert dominance over Mustafa al-Kadhimi

Last month, state security forces carried out the first raid of its kind against a base used by an Iran-backed militia on the edges of Baghdad, seizing rockets and arresting 14 fighters allegedly planning an attack on the city’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

Within days, all but one of fighters belonging to the group – known as Kataeb Hezbollah - were released and some were seen burning US and Israeli flags and stepping on pictures of Al-Kadhimi.

Kataeb Hezbollah is deeply suspicious of Kadhimi, accusing him of complicity in the US killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and a Popular Mobilisation Forces chief Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in a January drone strike in Baghdad.       

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