Iraqi militia leaders slam PM for raid on base of Iran-backed group

Meanwhile, a new coalition called Iraqion was formed in parliament

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is pictured at the prime minister's office in Baghdad, Iraq, June 4, 2020.  Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. To match Special Report IRAQ-IRAN/MOSUL
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Several Iraqi militia leaders on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Mustafa Al Khadimi for the arrest of 14 members of a powerful Iran-backed group, and vowed to take him to court.

The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service raided a Kataib Hezbollah base in southern Baghdad on Friday. The US has accused the Iran-backed group of attacking bases hosting US troops, and diplomatic targets in Baghdad.

Government officials told The National that the arrested men were known as the "Katyusha gang".

“We will file a case against Al Kadhimi for his actions,” said Abu Ali Al Askari, a Kataib Hezbollah officer.

“The operation was a sign of US collaboration. The Kataib are waiting for you.”

He was supported by US-designated terrorist Akram Al Kaabi, the secretary general of Harakat Hezbollah Al Nujaba in Iraq. He called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country.

“The matters on the ground are getting worse as the occupation does not want to leave and its agents have humiliated people and inflicted resistance,” Al Kaabi said.

He directed his militiamen and other pro-Iranian factions to “enhance their capabilities” and to prepare for what he called "the great saga”.

Iraqi officials said on Friday that the men were transferred to a prison under the supervision of the PMF and that their arrest warrant was issued by a judge who investigated the case.

On Monday, all the men but one were released, Mr Al Kadhimi's office said.

Pictures circulated on social media show the released men standing over photos of Mr Al Kadhimi while burning the American flag.

They were released because of a lack of evidence. The judge said he could not tie them to possessing rockets and launchers.

The raid was the most bold action by security forces against a major Iran-backed militia since 2003.

It comes as a new parliamentary coalition was formed on Tuesday, called "Iraqion". It is led by former prime minister Haider Al Abadi and Shiite cleric Ammar Al Hakim, leader of the Iraqi National Wisdom Movement.

The coalition of about 40 MPs is seen as a way to unite support for the government of Mr Al Kadhimi.

“The main purpose of this coalition is to support state building and back the government’s efforts to cross current crises,” said Mohammed Radhi, a professor in political science at Nahrain University in Baghdad.

Iraqi President Barham Salih called for the resumption of "the process of building a capable, sovereign state that will impose law and fight corruption".

Mr Salih said that the foundation of a constitution-based state is "the capability to prevent tyranny whilst serving its people peace and security".

“This must be strengthened,” he said.