A pro-Iran Iraqi militia commander whose arrest last month sparked a standoff between the government and paramilitary groups was freed Wednesday as unofficial reports said Iran’s Qods Force commander Esmail Ghaani (Qaani) arrived in the country.

Qassim Mahmoud Musleh was released at 8:00 in the morning. It is not clear if Ghaani arrived in Iraq on Tuesday or Wednesday. Two Iraqi officials told the Associate Press that Musleh returned to the southern city of Karbala, his hometown, where supporters greeted him.

Musleh is head of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Anbar province. He was arrested May 27 on terrorism charges following a judicial investigation. His release was ordered by an investigative judge within the PMF, to whom his case file had been sent, the two Irofficials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The PMF is a state-sanctioned group comprised of an array of militias formed to battle the Islamic State group in 2014. Among the most powerful members of the group are Iran-backed Shiite militia groups.

Musleh’s arrest sparked tensions and fears of violence when, shortly after, forces affiliated with the PMF surrounded Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s headquarters inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of the Iraqi government.

Musleh’s release might be seen as another instance of the government failing to impose law and order on Iran-backed groups, while protesters have been demanding a curb on Tehran’s political and military influence in Iraq.

Source » iranintl