An officer in charge of security in the Iraqi capital Baghdad was replaced yesterday, two days after an attack on anti-government protesters that witnesses said killed at least 16 people.
General Abdul Hussein al-Tamimi has replaced General Qais al-Mohammedwai as chief of the government’s security service Baghdad Operations, the official news agency INA reported, citing an unnamed official.
The replacement was due to al-Mohamedwai’s health, the agency added without elaborating.
On Friday, unknown gunmen fired from cars at anti-government protesters staging a sit-in at Al-Khilani Square in central Baghdad,
according to witnesses.
The attack was one of the deadliest since anti-government rallies began in the country.
Hundreds of people, mainly demonstrators, have been killed the demonstrations that have roiled Baghdad and other parts of Iraq since early October.
Protesters are calling for the resignation of the government, the dissolution of parliament and an overhaul of the country’s political system that has been in place since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The demonstrations have turned violent amid accusations from rights groups that members of the Iraqi security forces used excessive force against protesters.
Meanwhile, an Iraqi paramilitary leader and a politician have laughed off financial sanctions Washington recently placed on them for alleged corruption and human rights abuses.
“They should have given us this honour a long time ago,” said Qais al-Khazali, one of the newly-sanctioned figures, in sardonic remarks to an audience of supporters yesterday.
Khazali heads Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an armed faction that makes up part of the broader Hashed al-Shaabi security force tied to the Iraqi state.
The US Treasury on Friday accused his group of “widespread forced disappearances, abductions, killings, and torture” under the Global Magnitsky act.
The measures block financial transactions with and travel to the US for people who commit human rights abuses or corruption.
The US also sanctioned Iraqi businessman and political figure Khamees al-Khanjar, whom it accused of bribery.
In a statement, Khanjar’s party condemned the decision and said the accusations were “extremely funny and illogical.”
“He was never an official, nor was his party part of the government,” invalidating the corruption allegation, it said.
Khanjar is an influential powerbroker with close ties across Iraq’s leading political parties.
There was no immediate comment from two other paramilitary figures sanctioned on Friday: Laith al-Khazali, Qais’ brother and also a member of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and Abu Zeinab al-Lami, who heads the Hashed’s security apparatus. This is the second batch of Iraqi nationals the US has sanctioned.
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