Iraq's counterterrorism agencies carried out a raid last night on the headquarters of the Iranian-supported Hezbollah Brigades, one of the most powerful factions of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in southern Baghdad. At least 13 of the group's members are believed to have been arrested, although there have been contradictory, unconfirmed accounts of what happened and of the number of those detained.
Some sources claim that the detainees were transferred to a prison under the supervision of the PMF. Others have suggested that they were handed over to US forces, while yet others have said that all have in any case since been released.
According to Reuters, the faction has long been accused by US officials of firing rockets at bases hosting American troops in Iraq.
Al-Ahd TV close to Hashd (PMF) says these are #KataibHezbollah's members who were detained last night and then released this morning by Iraqi Counterterrorism force (CTS) #Iraq pic.twitter.com/tuNj4TgqhB
— Nafiseh Kohnavard (@nafisehkBBC) June 26, 2020
Earlier this morning, footage emerged of what appears to be PMF security convoys in Baghdad in reaction to the raid, and accompanying demands for the release of the Hezbollah Brigades members.
There have also been reactions from some PMF leaders and Iraqi politicians. Hassan Fadam, a representative of the Hekmat faction in the Iraqi parliament, said that the raid and the arrests were a provocative act and will not have good consequences.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, meanwhile, said that the PMF are an element of power for the Iraqi nation and country. "We should respect this force and maintain their position." He called for restraint on all sides.
A newly-formed resistance faction, "Revenge for Muhandis", released a statement on social media threatening that, "The hands that reach the beloved Mujahideen [fighters] will be cut, and we will cut the heads of those who ordered the raid. Do not test our patience."
There has been no official announcement from the PMF nor from the Iraqi government, although according to The National Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is "closely following" the situation. An official is quoted denying the release of the faction's members.
The raid was the first of its kind in years, and came amid Baghdad's attempt to start the second round of US-Iraq strategic talks in Washington in the presence of Al-Kadhimi. In May, he was pictured wearing a PMF jacket during a visit to its command centre in Baghdad.