Iraqi safety forces have raided the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah, capturing a number of leaders of the militia on the coronary heart of US-Iranian battle early this yr. The US coalition rushed to distance itself from the operation.
Particular forces from the Counter Terrorism Service carried out the raid within the early hours of Friday native time, at a base south of Baghdad, reportedly arresting almost two dozen militiamen and a number of other commanders.
Their destiny stays unclear, nevertheless, as authorities officers insist they’re within the custody of safety companies, whereas paramilitary sources declare all these detained have since been handed over to the Widespread Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Including extra confusion, an Iraqi official initially advised Reuters that at the very least three of the group’s detained commanders – together with one Iranian nationwide – had been transferred over to the US army. Nevertheless, a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq later denied this report – in addition to any American involvement within the controversial operation.
In keeping with @AP 13 members of the group have been arrested. Kadhimi has been underneath strain to reign in Iranian proxies who’ve continued to assault US targets. It’s inconceivable that he would have launched tonight’s operation with out the agency backing of the US.
— Ranj Alaaldin (@RanjAlaaldin) June 25, 2020
The raid seems to have been ordered by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, who took workplace final month over the vocal objections of Kataib Hezbollah and different PMF militias.
Kataib Hezbollah has been on the middle of tensions between Washington and Tehran over the continued US presence in Iraq. The US has accused the Shia militia of repeated rocket assaults in opposition to bases housing US personnel, going as far as to bomb Kataib positions on a number of events in reprisal.
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One such assault, in December 2019, prompted the militants to besiege the US Embassy in Baghdad. In response, US President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike in opposition to the PMF management on January 2 – killing Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Power of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), within the course of.
Iran responded by launching missiles in opposition to a number of US bases in Iraq, inflicting large materials harm however not killing any US or Iraqi troops. It later emerged that Washington and Baghdad acquired a warning forward of the assaults.
Since then, US-Iranian tensions have simmered, however by no means escalated to the purpose of open warfare. Friday’s raid may ratchet them up once more, nevertheless.
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