Iraqi security forces have raided a base belonging to a powerful Iran-backed armed group in southern Baghdad and detained at least 14 militia members, sources have told Al Jazeera.
The raid late on Thursday was the most brazen action by Iraqi forces against a major Iran-backed group in years and targeted the Kataib Hezbollah faction, which United States officials have accused of firing rockets at bases hosting US troops and other facilities in Iraq.
Al Jazeera’s Simona Foltyn, reporting from Baghdad, said Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service seized at least 10 rockets during the operation, which was “carried out an in effort to pre-empt an impending rocket attack on the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport, both of which house US troops”.
“Subsequently, dozens of armed Kataib Hezbollah fighters arrived in the Green Zone and laid siege to one of the buildings belonging to the Counter Terrorism Service, demanding the release of the detainees, claiming they were arrested illegally without an arrest warrant,” she said.
Kataib Hezbollah itself is part of Iraq’s security apparatus, she noted, as the group is part of the state-funded Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a Shia paramilitary dominated by Iran-backed armed groups.
The raid was the first sign that the government of Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, intends to make good on promises to take tough action against groups that have targeted US installations.
It took place after a number of rocket attacks near the US embassy in Baghdad and other US military sites in the country in recent weeks.
“If those detained are released, this would be a rather embarrassing to the new government,” said Foltyn, “as the raid was carried out on al-Kadhimi’s orders and the prime minister has made it one of his priorities to constrain the weapons in the hands of the state and to rein in groups such as Kataib Hezbollah.”
Source » aljazeera