Hashed al-Shaabi members torch Kurdish party offices in Baghdad
BAGHDAD--Supporters of Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces), an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Iran-backed factions, Saturday burned down the main Kurdish party’s headquarters in Baghdad after criticism from Kurdish ex-minister Hoshyar Zebari .
Earlier this month, Zebari, Iraq’s longtime former foreign minister and a key Kurdish power-broker, said the government needed to “clean up the Green Zone (in Baghdad) from the presence of Hashed militias”.
They were operating “outside the law”, Zebari, a KDP member, said in comments to the US-funded Al-Hurra television.
Hundreds of Hashed demonstrators swept past a security detail Saturday and stormed into the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which runs the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, and torched them.
Protesters burned Kurdish flags while others carried posters of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last January.
The Hashed paramilitaries were formed in 2014 from mostly-Shia armed groups and functions as a parallel entity to the government security institutions despite being formally integrated into Iraq’s armed forces.
The Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), which are represented in parliament, has spawned several ideologically affiliated armed groups.
Vian Sabry, head of the KDP bloc in parliament, condemned Saturday’s attack.
“This isn’t a protest because protests are supposed to be peaceful as per the constitution,” she said.
She blamed “unaccountable factions for being behind such acts”, without elaborating.
On October 1, Kurdish authorities accused PMF militants of firing rockets at the airport in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan, where US troops are based.
Around 90 rocket attacks have targeted the US presence in Iraq since the January drone strike, with several claimed by pro-Iran factions.