Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi militia arrest commander who criticised Iran
An Iraqi militia commander was arrested after he criticised Iran's influence in the country, an official with the Iraqi government-sanctioned umbrella of Shia paramilitary groups has said.
The official from the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, said on Friday that Aws al-Khafaji, commander of the Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas Brigade, was detained the previous night.
The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to reporters.
Al-Khafaji had earlier told a local TV station that Iraqis should not only oppose American and Turkish presence in Iraq but also Iran's interference.
A statement from the Popular Mobilisation Forces said that four Baghdad offices of al-Khafaji's group were closed because they were located in residential neighbourhoods. It said members were arrested after rejecting the closure.
Earlier this month, Iraqi novelist and writer Alaa Abboud Mashzoub was gunned down outside his home in Karbala in an attack believed to have been carried out by pro-Iranian militias.
The killing triggered widespread condemnation of Iraqi security forces for their failure to protect figures such as Mashzoub and Tara Fares, a social media star who was shot dead in Baghdad in September 2018.
Last year also saw the killings of Souad al-Ali, an activist from Basra, and Rafif al-Yassiri and Rasha al-Hassan, two beauty experts. Al-Ali was a prominent activist who campaigned for improved services in the southern city of Basra and spoke out against the influence of Iranian militias in the country.
Although the militias suspected in the string of assassinations were a major player in Iraq's battle against the Islamic State group, which was declared complete last year, many Iraqis resent the Popular Mobilisation Forces for allegedly rampant corruption, political meddling and rights violations.