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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 July 2018

Iraqi police clash with pro-Iranian militia in Baghdad

The exchange of fire left at least three people wounded

Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces march as they hold Popular Mobilisation flags and posters of Shiite spiritual leaders during Al-Quds Day (Arabic for Jerusalem) in Baghdad earlier this month. AP
Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Forces march as they hold Popular Mobilisation flags and posters of Shiite spiritual leaders during Al-Quds Day (Arabic for Jerusalem) in Baghdad earlier this month. AP

Three people were wounded in Baghdad on Wednesday when pro-Iranian Hezbollah brigades clashed with Iraqi police, the interior ministry said.

The Hezbollah brigade forces reportedly opened fire on a police patrol that had stopped a car, eyewitnesses said.

“Five vehicles arrived after the car was stopped and the men opened fire at the police. Two police men were wounded as well as a member of the Hezbollah brigades,” the ministry said.

Security forces deployed to surround the militia’s headquarters after the gunshots were heard in east Baghdad.

The siege was lifted after the person behind the shooting was handed over.

The Hezbollah Brigades, part of the Hashed Al Shaabi paramilitary units that fought ISIS in Iraq, is also fighting on the side of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria, independently of the authorities in Baghdad.

The pro-Iranian militias joined the Hashed after an appeal was made by the country’s top Shiite cleric to fight ISIS.

The Hashed militias fought on the front lines alongside government troops and Baghdad declared victory over the insurgents in December last year.

The pro-Iranian group on Sunday was targeted by air raids that allegedly left 50 fighters dead in eastern Syria, where forces on the ground are fighting ISIS sleeper cells.

Sectarian tensions in Baghdad have dramatically decreased in last few months however the incident comes against a backdrop of political uncertainty after last month’s elections. Political groups are forming alliances to shape the next government however the outcome of the vote has been contested with groups in the Kurdish northeast alleging missing ballots and members of parliament voting to carry out a countrywide recount.

Despite the post-vote political disputes, the election itself was conducted largely free of violence.

The vote saw electoral lists led by Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr and Iranian-backed militia chief Hadi Al Amiri win the largest number of seats. The two leaders announced their intention to form an alliance of their political blocs last week.