Politics

Iraq frees pro-Iran fighters held over rocket fire

By AFP

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This picture taken on March 13th shows an impact crater in the aftermath of US military airstrikes at a militarised zone in the Jurf al-Sakhr area in Iraq's Babylon province controlled by Kataib Hizbullah. [AFP]

More than a dozen pro-Iran fighters detained over a planned rocket attack were released on Monday (June 29th).

Counter-terrorism forces detained 14 members of Kataib Hizbullah late Thursday for allegedly planning a rocket attack on Baghdad's Green Zone, where the US and other embassies as well as state buildings are located.

But the accused were soon handed over to the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), the umbrella organisation of Iraqi paramilitary groups that has been nominally incorporated into the state.

On Monday, an Iraqi judge ordered the case dropped, Kataib Hizbullah's military spokesman Jaafar al-Husseini told AFP.

A PMF security source confirmed the fighters' release, although a government official said one remained in custody.

The official said 13 of the 14 were released on bail but insisted the charges have not been dropped.

"The detainee that remains in custody is the one that the evidence undeniably points to," the official said.

According to Iraq's Joint Operations Command, the arrest warrants for the 14 were based on the country's counter-terror law, which carries the death penalty.

It also said the counter-terrorism forces had seized two rocket launchers during the raid as proof of the planned attack.

After its fighters were released on Monday, Kataib Hizbullah issued a statement insisting it's weapons would never be "handed over, restricted or counted" by the Iraqi state.

Since October, nearly three dozen missile attacks have targeted either US troops or diplomats, killing three US military personnel, one British and one Iraqi.

The US has accused Kataib Hizbullah and other pro-Iran factions of carrying out the attacks and has bombed Kataib bases across Iraq in retaliation.

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