Iran-Aligned Senior Commander of Iraq’s Hezbollah Shot Dead

Baghdad – Kata’ib Hezbollah Secretary General Bassam al-Safi, based in the Iraqi city of Basra, was shot dead Wednesday evening. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that the assassination was staged by a dicey group aiming to provoke national strife.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is a predominantly Shi’ite Iran-aligned group largely based in central and southern Iraq. Iraq’s Hezbollah (not to be confused with the Lebanon-based Shi’ite movement of the same name) is a paramilitary group fighting along with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella of pro-government — mainly Shi’ite — fighting groups.

The contingent assassination of Safi was carried out by unidentified gunmen who opened fire at the car he was traveling in at the Hayaniya neighborhood, located in central Basra.

Safi is an ex-member of the city’s local board and security committee. Kata’ib Hezbollah anchored itself as an independent entity in Basra in 2006, getting greatly involved with an Iran-backed paramilitary group, the PMF.

PMF fighters joined forces with Iraqi army soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in a major operation which launched on October 17, 2016 to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from ISIS ultra-hardliners.

Kata’ib Hezbollah’s units partook in the Iraqi offensive launched against terror group ISIS, Basra sources said.

Chairman of the Basra security committee Jabbar al-Saadi, did not rule out that Safi’s assassination being a result of his fighting role within PMF factions.

“At least 22 influential parties and political blocs exist in Basra, all of which partake in a rivalry. Regrettably, the tense competition affects Basra’s state of affairs,” Saadi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the assassination. However, Basra is completely under the control of several Shi’ite militant organizations, each vying for a greater share of power and influence at the expense of one another. The assassination could therefore be one militia attacking another.

Daily occurring security breaches were admitted by Saadi.

Image: REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani

Article: Asharq al-Awsat