Supporters in Iraq of the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Shi’ite militia backed by Iran staged a protest in Baghdad on Saturday, after the U.S. targeted the group’s leader with sanctions a day earlier.
Washington imposed the punitive economic measures against Qais al-Khazali and two other Iranian-linked leaders over their alleged role in the killing of anti-government protesters across Iraq. Infuriated activists flooded the streets of the Iraqi capital, where they burned American flags and hung effigies of U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as those of Washington’s regional allies which included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Deputy Secretary General ‘Asaib Ahl Al-Haq’ Mohammed Tabtabaei declared, “These crowds have come out to condemn the sanctions by the U.S against a leader of the holy Hashid Shaabi movement.”
The U.S. Treasury Department said in its statement that militant groups led by the three sanctioned individuals “opened fire on peaceful protests, killing dozens of innocent civilians.”
The Iranian-backed militant groups in Iraq deny any role in the deaths of protesters, who have now demonstrated against the government for more than two months. According to local police and medics, security forces have so far killed more than 400 mostly-unarmed protesters.