Iran-backed militia says Iraq PM’s actions could bring ‘escalation’

BAGHDAD (AP) — A powerful Iran-backed militia said on Wednesday there would be “escalation” if Iraq’s Prime Minister continues to clamp down on armed groups, as tensions spiked following the killing of a prominent analyst, pitting the state against rogue elements.

Hostilities have flared as Iraq reels from the assassination of Hisham al-Hashimi, 47, who was gunned down by unknown assailants on motorbikes outside his Baghdad home on Monday.

He had received death threats from the Islamic State group and Iran-backed militia groups.

Al-Hashimi’s killers are still unknown but many point to the timing of the assassination, coming just two weeks after a raid on the headquarters of the Kataib Hezbollah militia south of Baghdad. They speculate al-Hashimi may have fallen victim to escalating tensions between the government and militia groups.

Days before his death a study he wrote on the inner workings of Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq was published.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has vowed to avenge al-Hashimi’s killing, but a serious investigation risks further stoking tensions with Iraq’s militias.

Katab Hezbollah’s spokesman, Mohammed Mohie, speaking to The Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday, described the raid on his group’s headquarters as an act of “provocation”.

Al-Kadhimi has said that bringing armed groups under state control is a goal of his administration.