Iraq's Al Sadr sends delegation to Maysan to calm tensions after assassinations

Killing believed to be politically motivated to force officials to form a new government

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi with security officials in the southern province of Maysan and offering condolences to the family of the slain judge. Photo: Prime Minister's Office
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Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr sent a delegation to the southern city of Maysan on Thursday to quell tensions after the assassination of one of his followers there.

Karar Abu Ragheef, a supporter of Mr Al Sadr, was killed in the southern province by unknown gunmen late on Wednesday, triggering concerns between political religious leaders.

The province has followers of Mr Al Sadr’s Saraya Al Salam militia as well as those of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, one of the factions of the Hashed Al Shaabi, which is led by Qais Al Khazaali.

The Hashed was founded in 2014 to fight ISIS alongside Iraqi forces but its factions have since been ordered to incorporate into the state security services.

Abu Ragheef’s assassination was the third in the province in recent weeks.

“I’m sending a high level delegation to calm the strife fuelled by politics between the followers of Saraya Al Salam and the Asa’ib,” Mr Al Sadr said in a statement published on the Iraqi news agency.

“Our supporters must prevent bloodshed. In the event that one of the parties does not respond, I will let the law take its course. Let everyone abstain from violence and harm,” said the cleric, who has millions of followers.

Mr Al Sadr called for calm after the killing of Abu Ragheef and said it was politically motivated at putting pressure on officials to form the next government.

The development follows the visit of Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi to Maysan on Wednesday after the killing of two officials this week.

Gunmen assassinated a judge who specialised in drug cases and an interior ministry official.

“We are going through complicated political circumstances,” Mr Al Kadhimi told a group of provincial security officials on his arrival in the area.

“No one is allowed to exploit this situation to create chaos during this important period of time," he said.

Judge Ahmed Faisal Khasaf was driving home in his car in the provincial capital of Amara when assailants blocked his route and shot him 15 times with a Kalashnikov.

He died at the scene.

A few days later the interior ministry official was killed, pushing Mr Al Kadhimi to seek justice.

“I will follow up with the joint security command in the province on a daily basis. All criminals will be arrested and handed to the judiciary,” he said.

The province has an increasingly alarming drug problem and is riven with tribal disputes.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 3:27 PM