BAGHDAD: Supporters of Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Iran-backed factions, on Saturday burned down the main Kurdish party’s headquarters in Baghdad after criticism from a Kurdish ex-minister.

Hundreds of Hashed demonstrators swept past a security detail and stormed into the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which runs the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, and torched them.

Protesters burned Kurdish flags while others carried posters of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport last January.

In the wake of the attack, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi convened an emergency meeting of Iraq’s national security council, at which he announced 15 arrests and the launch of a probe into the guards’ failure to protect the KDP headquarters.

The Hashed paramilitaries were formed in 2014 from mostly-Shia armed groups and volunteers to fight the militant Islamic State (IS) group.

Hashed has since been formally integrated into Iraq’s armed forces and has representation in parliament, and it has spawned several ideologically affiliated armed groups.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2020