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Iraq: new US sanctions on PMF's deputy head

Members of the Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on October 26, 2019.
Members of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on 26 October 2019 [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images]

The US has imposed new sanctions on the deputy head of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) after classifying him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) on Wednesday.

Abdul Aziz Al-Muhammadawi, also known as Abu Fadak, was appointed as deputy head last February following the assassination of his predecessor Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis alongside the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Forces, General Qassem Solaimani last year in Baghdad.

Prior to his position, Abu Fadak was a leading member of Kataib Hezbollah (KH), one of the core factions that make up the PMF umbrella, which the State Department has described as "an Iran-backed terrorist organization that seeks to advance Iran's malign agenda," adding that KH has "claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks in Iraq."

Abu Fadak's designation follows last week's sanctions imposed against the PMF's chairman Falih Al-Fayyadh under the Magnitsky Act having been accused of rights abuses against anti-government protestors.

READ: Shia cleric calls for Iraq to find alternative for Iran gas

Al-Fayyadh spoke out against the sanctions against Abu Fadak who was quoted in a statement sent to Newsweek by the PMF: "It arouses disapproval to classify as terrorists those who faced terrorism and made tremendous sacrifices and fought the fiercest battles on behalf of the world in order to defeat the most powerful dark and extremist force represented by ISIS terrorists, and to abort their project to destroy Iraq and the region…"

The Treasury Department had initially mistakenly stated in a press release that Abu Fadak was linked to Daesh. Its online version of the report still includes the group's name, but has since crossed it out and a notice has replaced it with that of KH.

Also on Wednesday, the US announced new sanctions against two Iranian foundations run by the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, namely The Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO) and Astan Quds Razavi (AKR), the latter manages the Imam Reza shrine in the city of Mashhad.

"While purportedly charitable organizations (bonyads)," a Treasury Department statement affirmed, "EIKO and AQR control large swaths of the Iranian economy, including assets expropriated from political dissidents and religious minorities."

READ: Iraq: government employee accused of granting citizenship to foreigners

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