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US blacklists Iraqi militia leader in connection with deadly anti-government protests

This November 15, 2011 file photo shows the US Treasury Building in Washington, DC on November 21, 2011 [KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images]
This November 15, 2011 file photo shows the US Treasury Building in Washington, DC on November 21, 2011 [KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images]

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on an Iraqi militia leader and former national security adviser, connecting him to human rights abuses during the 2019 anti-government demonstrations in which hundreds of protesters were killed, Reuters reports.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement it was blacklisting Falih al-Fayyadh, chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC).

The Treasury accused him of being part of a crisis cell formed in late 2019 to suppress protests with the support of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, which is blacklisted by the United States.

Washington said al-Fayyadh was the head of the PMC when forces under its command fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters in 2019, resulting in hundreds of deaths.

READ: Iraq seeks arrest of Donald Trump over killing of top militia commander

Iraq's biggest anti-government protests in decades broke out in October 2019 and continued for several months, with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis demanding jobs, services and the removal of the ruling elite, which they said was corrupt.

Nearly 500 people were killed. The protests caused the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

"By directing and supervising the murder of peaceful Iraqi demonstrators, Iran-aligned militants and politicians such as Falih al-Fayyadh have been waging a violent campaign against Iraqi democracy and civil society," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

"The United States will continue to hold accountable human rights abusers in Iraq who aim to deny the Iraqi people in their efforts to peacefully protest, seek justice, and root out corruption in their country."

READ: Iraq Kurdistan region extends suspension of schools, universities over COVID-19 concerns

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