Iraqi PM slams armed groups approaching Baghdad’s Green Zone

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has slammed some armed militia for approaching the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, saying their move violates the country’s constitution.

The appearance of a group of paramilitary soldiers near the Green Zone on Wednesday sparked a state of emergency as security forces deployed surrounding the zone and blocked all its entrances, a police source told Xinhua news agency.

The tension came after the Iraqi government arrested earlier in the day Qasim Mahmoud Karim Muslih, a commander of Hashd Shaabi forces, over the charges of terrorism.

“We have directed an immediate investigation into these movements (of armed groups), according to the law,” al-Kadhimi, who is also commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, said in a statement later in the day.

Al-Kadhimi said an investigative committee comprising the Joint Operation Command (JOC), the Interior Intelligence, Military Intelligence, National Security, and the Hashd Shaabi Security Service was formed to investigate the accusations against Muslih.

The Prime Minister added that noting Muslih is being held by the JOC until the investigation is completed.

Early Wednesday morning, a security force arrested Muslih from his home in Doura district in southern Baghdad.

The arrest triggered criticisms and dissatisfactions from some influential Shia military groups.

Qais al-Khazali, head of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Movement, demanded that Muslih be handed over to the Hashd Shaabi Security Service, considering the arrest “as an attempt to confuse the security situation”.

According to local media reports, leading Shia politicians are holding meetings with the government and Hashd Shaabi leaders to ease the tension in the Iraqi capital.