Scores of Iraq militia supporters storm offices of TV channel that called ex-leader a 'terrorist'

Scores of Iraq militia supporters storm offices of TV channel that called ex-leader a 'terrorist'
Angry protesters broke into the Baghdad office of Saudi-owned MBC television, after one of its broadcasts called Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, the slain leader of the Hashd Al-Shaabi militias, a 'terrorist'.
2 min read
18 May, 2020
Hashd supporters protest from the roof of MBC's Baghdad headquarters [Twitter]
Scores of supporters of Iraq's Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary - also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces [PMF] - stormed the Baghdad office of the Saudi-owned TV channel MBC after a broadcast which called the group's slain former leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, a "terrorist".

Crowds gathered on Monday outside the channel's Iraqi headquarters in Al-Waziriya, north-east Baghdad, calling for the broadcaster to be shut down.

The incident was sparked by the channel's coverage of the 1981 bombing of the Iraqi embassy in Beirut, in which Al-Muhandis was implicated, and which called the former militia leader a terrorist.

Videos circulating on social media showed dozens of people, some in paramilitary gear, breaking into the offices and waving banners from the roof.

Another image appeared showing militiamen placing a sign on the gates of the headquarters stating: "Closed - under order of the people".

The militia supporters also damaged equipment and scrawled slogans in support of Al-Muhandis on the walls before they were removed by police, a source told The New Arab's Arabic-language service.

Al-Muhandis was killed alongside Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds' Force in a US air strike on Baghdad airport in January.

The militia leader, whose real name was Jamal Jaafar Al-Ibrahimi, spent his decades-long career building up pro-Iran militia groups in Iraq.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, he helped found Kataeb Hezbollah, a hardline Iran-backed faction - also known as Iraqi Hezbollah - that targeted American troops.

It led him and Kataeb Hezbollah to being sanctioned by the US in 2009 as "terrorist" entities.

He was later appointed deputy head of the PMF, founded as a loose network of Shia-majority factions fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq. The force was later absorbed into Iraq's formal security forces.

Although nominally the deputy leader, Al-Muhandis was widely recognised as the PMF's true commander until his death in the US strike.

The Iran-aligned PMF has been accused of various atrocities since its establishment, including a recent slew of deadly attacks on anti-government protesters in Iraq.

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