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Head of pro-Iran militia threatens Americans in Iraq

IMIS
The leader of an Iraqi Shia militia, backed by Iran, threatened to take hostage “all” US citizens in Iraq in the event of a conflict between the US and Iran.
Abu Alaa al-Wala’i, head of the Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) militia, made the threat on Wednesday during an interview with al-Dijla, an Iraqi television station, close to the Fatah Coalition, which represents the Shiite militias in Iraq’s parliament.
The KSS was established in 2013 during the Syrian civil war. Ostensibly, its purpose was to protect Shi’ite shrines in Syria. However, its declared aim served largely as a recruiting tool. Iraqis ostensibly mobilized to protect the shrines were used to fight the Syrian opponents of Bashar al-Assad’s Baathist regime.
When, a year later, the Sunni terrorist organization, the Islamic State, emerged as a major threat to Iraq, KSS became involved in fighting it, as well.
Although ISIS, which once controlled nearly a third of Iraq, has largely been defeated as a territorial entity, many IMIS militias remain mobilized. In parts of Iraq, they constitute an undisciplined force that practices mafia-like tactics to extort the population.
In northern Iraq, for example, the presence of militias blocks the return of internally displaced persons, many of whom now live in camps in the Kurdistan Region.
On Wednesday, Wala’i, in the Dijla television studio, proclaimed, “All Americans will be held hostage by the resistance factions in the event of a war.”
His threat—which can only be realized through a decision in Tehran, and then, of course, only in small part—followed a series of Israeli strikes in Iraq, going back to mid-July, on sites associated with IMIS elements closely tied to Iran.
Two weeks ago, a weapons depot in Baghdad, reportedly operated by KSS, was demolished in a massive explosion. That explosion, along with rockets stored there, which fired off sporadically, landing in the surrounding south Baghdad neighborhood, killed one person and wounded 37 others.
Among the first responses of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi was to order an end to the practice of keeping such weapons in populated areas.
The incident was among five attacks on IMIS targets that culminated Sunday in a strike on a convoy in al Qa’im, along the Syrian border, belonging to another IMIS group, Kata’ib Hezbollah. The attack reportedly killed six militiamen.
On Monday, the funerals for the militiamen were held, precipitating popular protests in Baghdad. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who has worked alongside Iran since the 1980s and whom the US has sanctioned for terrorism, charged that Israel was responsible for the attacks and the US was complicit in them.
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