A senior leader within the Iran-backed Iraqi Hezbollah militant group was assassinated last night in the southern Shia-dominated city of Basra according to local police sources and social media activists.
"Bassem Al-Moussawi, secretary-general of [Iraq's] Hezbollah, was killed late yesterday when unidentified assailants opened fire on his car in Basra province's Al-Hayyaniya district," the Basra police force spokesman, Major Jumaa Al-Hamrani, told Turkish state-run Anadolu.
An associate of Al-Mousawi was injured in the attack, after which the gunmen managed to flee the scene, Al-Hamrani said.
No group has yet has claimed responsibility for the assassination. However, Basra is completely under the control of several Shia militant organisations, each vying for a greater share of power and influence at the expense of one another. The assassination could therefore be one militia attacking another.
Arab social media was predominantly jubilant with the death of the Shia jihadist commander, and largely due to his organisation's involvement in alleged sectarian atrocities in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
Senior Al Jazeera reporter Ahmad Zaidan tweeted: "The leader of a sectarian Iranian militia, Basim Al-Moussawi, was assassinated in Basra in Iraq."
— د ـ أحمد موفق زيدان (@Ahmadmuaffaq) February 9, 2017
Another Syrian journalist, Tahir Al-Omar, tweeted: "The traitorous Basim Al-Moussawi, leader of the Iranian militia Hezbollah in Iraq, was assassinated in Basra.. Say hi to Khomeini."
اغتيال العميل باسم الموسوي قائد مليشيا حزب الله الإيرانية في العراق تم إغتياله في مدينة البصرة
سلم على الخرامنئي … pic.twitter.com/ZtWfN0zTLV
— طاهر العمر (@omaralsory641) February 9, 2017
Meanwhile, Iraqi Twitter user Dawood Albasri, who hails from Basra itself, said: "The secretary-general of the Shia Hezbollah terrorist organisation in Basra, Basim Al-Moussawi, was killed today in the Al-Hayyaniya district. To hell with you, dog of Iran."
مقتل أمين عام حزب الله الإرهابي الشيعي في البصرة باسم الموسوي اليوم في منطقة الحيانيوم
للجحيم يا كلاب إيران!
— داود البصري (@dawoodalbasri) February 8, 2017
Hezbollah and the PMF
The Iraqi Hezbollah has close ties to the Lebanese Shia jihadist organisation of the same name, and both are directly armed, funded and trained by regional Shia power Iran. The Iraqi Hezbollah is a faction within the Hashd Al-Sha'abi, better known in English as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella paramilitary organisation of mainly Shia jihadists.
Established in 2014 following a fatwa, or religious edict, by senior Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani with the express purpose of fighting Daesh, the PMF is estimated to include more than 150,000 fighters.
It has also been widely accused of perpetrating sectarian atrocities and human rights violations against predominantly Sunni Arab populations in Iraq by such organisations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Late last year, the PMF was formally incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces and continues to be involved in an ongoing military campaign aimed at destroying Daesh's presence in its last major urban stronghold of Mosul in Iraq's north.