The leaders of the Hashd al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary force with heavy Shiite ties and Iranian influence, is calling for action in the wake of an airstrike that killed 22 militiamen in Syria. Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman and Fatiah Alliance leader Karim al-Nouri declared,
The airstrikes that targeted some of Hashd al-Shaabi forces is frankly a very dangerous affair and precedent. There has to be quick investigations by the Iraqi government and even on the part of the international coalition.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the casualty count is up to 55 regarding the airstrike that hit a group of militants in al-Hari Sunday night; al-Hari is a small Syrian village that shares a border with Iraq. SOHR stated that among the killed were Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi men. The Hashd al-Shaabi offices in Iraq confirmed their men had been killed and that many of them were part of Kataib Hezbollah.
The Joint Operations Command (JOC) of Iraq released a vague statement declaring that those responsible for the deaths of Iraqi citizens in the region should be held accountable. The JOC also elaborated that the men killed in the region were not under their command, alluding to the activities of a rogue unit. No entity possessing the ability to direct an airstrike has come forward to claim responsibility yet. Many are blaming the United States and coalition forces, however the United States formally denied that it was involved with any air support operations in the region at that time.
Hashd al-Shaabi spokesman Karim al-Nouri stated,
If it is … to create new a new reality on the ground in the area, or regional rivalries, then these are dangerous talks. We don’t want to be part of regional rivalry … [The Coalition] knows these areas … This terrible crime will reinitialize confrontations with the Zionist entity and the American plan. We in the Kataib Hezbollah have never and will never hesitate in walking that path.”
Kataib Hezbollah, a smaller faction within the Hashd al-Shaabi ranks, has threatened retaliation for the strike. They have promised a “proportionate” response once they ascertain the identity of the responsible party. The Hashd al-Shaabi was started by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most powerful Shiite leader in Iraq, on a fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority.) The force was recently integrated into the Iraqi military forces officially.
Feature image: Liberation of Fallujah by Iraqi Armed Forces and The People’s Mobilization (Shi’a militias). Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.