ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Shia militias, known as the Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) on Monday evening announced they haf carried out “the largest campaign in the history of Iraq” against underground casinos, drug rings, and prostitution clubs in the capital, noting the campaign resulted in the arrest of a ‘Grand Mafia Leader.”
This is the first such campaign to be carried out by Hashd al-Shaabi. National security services usually carry out such activities at the request of the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief.
In a statement, the PMF said the campaign was “the largest in the history of Iraq to hunt down mafias, roulette clubs, casinos, drug dealers, and prostitution rings.”
It also mentioned the “quality operation” was carried out by the Directorate of Security of the militia “under the guidance of the Prime Minister” of Iraq. The operation resulted in the arrest of Hamza al-Shammari, the leader of the largest mafia group in Iraq, who reportedly “controlled all gambling, prostitution, and drug trafficking sites” along with 25 of his followers, the statement added.
They also confiscated slot machines, narcotics, and some other gambling paraphernalia.
The PMF also asserted they had handed over the detained individuals, along with the confiscated material, to the Iraqi national security services for investigation. The Iraqi federal government had no comment on the campaign.
Last week, videos circulated on social media platforms showed Shia militias storming clubs inside hotels in Baghdad.
Although the PMF is an official body of the Iraqi armed forces, its statements and operations are often separate and sometimes conflict with the Joint Operations Command.
The PMF, comprised of dozens of militia groups most of which are backed by Iran, was formed in late 2014 by a fatwa issued by Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who asked men to take up arms against the Islamic State and protect religious Shia sites.
The Iraqi parliament and government have recognized the PMF as an official body in Iraq’s defense system, but the militia groups are yet to be fully integrated into the Iraqi security forces.
Editing by Nadia Riva