Exclusive: Iran-backed militias deployed snipers in Iraq protests – sources
The Iraqi security sources told Reuters that the leaders of Iran-aligned militias decided on their own to help put down the mass protests against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, whose one-year-old administration is backed by powerful Iran-backed armed groups and political factions.
“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said one of the Iraqi security sources. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”
A second Iraqi security source, who attended daily government security briefings, said militia men clad in black shot protesters on the third day of unrest, when the death toll soared to more than 50 from about half a dozen. The fighters were directed by Abu Zainab al-Lami, head of security for the Hashid, a grouping of mostly Shi’ite Muslim paramilitaries backed by Iran, the second source said. The Hashid leader was tasked with quashing the protests by a group of other senior militia commanders, the source said. The sources did not say how many snipers were deployed by militia groups.
A spokesman for the Hashid, Ahmed al-Asadi, denied the groups took part in the crackdown. “No members were present in the protest areas. None of the elements of the Hashid took part in confronting protesters,” Asadi said in a statement to Reuters.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said state security forces did not fire directly at protesters and blamed unnamed “vicious” shooters for the mass deaths and injuries. The government has opened an investigation to determine who shot the protesters and who ordered it, Maan said in a news conference on Oct. 6.
The assertion that security forces did not participate in the violence seemed to contradict a statement on Oct. 7 from the Iraqi security forces which said excessive force had been used and promised to hold individuals accountable for violence against civilians.
Read more at: Reuters
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