Dozens of angry men stormed the studio of the Saudi Arabia-owned MBC channel in Baghdad on Monday after it aired a show that was critical of Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis.
Al Muhandis, who was killed in a US strike earlier this year near Baghdad’s airport, was the de facto leader of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella body of all of Iraq’s mostly Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
He founded the Shiite Kataib Hezbollah militia group in 2003 after the US-led invasion.
The programme aired on MBC 1 indicated that Al Muhandis was involved in arranging an attack in Lebanon nearly 40 years ago.
The attack on the channel's office located in the Al Waziriya district, north of the Iraqi capital, was in response to an episode of Malek Beltawilah, which means a long story made short in Arabic. It is an educational show that airs once a week during the holy month of Ramadan.
The programme was about the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani and said that his Iraqi wife, Balquees Al Rawi, was killed in the 1981 bombing of the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. It hinted that Al Muhandis was linked to the bombings.
MBC said in a statement that no one had been hurt in the raid on Monday but that “severe damage” had been caused to the studio and office property.
It is unclear whether the dozens who stormed the office were linked to Iran-backed groups in Iraq.
The channel said it would place the matter in the hands of Iraqi authorities to protect MBC’s Iraq employees and the organisation.
“MBC Group hopes to receive full details of the circumstances of the attack at the earliest and work with the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable, as well as bring them to justice, in order to prevent similar attacks in the future,” the statement said.