ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Lebanese authorities on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant against Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Iranian-backed Shia Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, for allegedly entering Lebanese territory without permission.
Khazali appeared in a video circulated on social media last month as he toured the border area between Lebanon and Israel with allied factions in Lebanon's Hezbollah group and vowed to stand up for the Palestinian cause against Israel.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is a militia group under the umbrella of the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq.
Lebanese judicial authorities issued an arrest warrant for “Iraqi Sheikh [Qais] Hadi al-Khazali,” warning him if he ever tried to enter Lebanon again, according to Lebanese al-Akhbar Newspaper, which is aligned with Iran.
The newspaper stated that the arrest warrant came at the request of Attorney General Samir Hammoud’s request, claiming an investigation “showed that Khazali did not enter Lebanon legally.”
There was no immediate comment from Khazali, who leads one of the most powerful factions within the PMF, established in 2014 following the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq and Syria.
Although the PMF reportedly answers to Commander in Chief, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, most of the armed groups receive training and funding from Iran, especially the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia.
Asaib al-Haq and other Iraqi militias fought alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his opponents during the seven-year conflict in Syria.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized Khazali’s visit to southern Lebanon with members of Hezbollah and warned of any military activities on Lebanese soil.
Earlier in November 2017, the US House of Representatives’ Ted Poe introduced a bill called “Iranian Proxies Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017” that calls for imposing terrorism-related sanctions on Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Nujaba militias have in the past launched attacks on US forces in Iraq after the regime fall in 2003 and until the withdrawal of US troops in 2011 from the country.
The PMF, especially Asaib Ahl al-Haq, played a significant role helping Iraqi forces attack the oil-rich and ethnically diverse province of Kirkuk, and other disputed territories, on Oct. 16, 2017.
Editing by Nadia Riva