Iraq police say Shia militia commander arrested

Wathiq al-Battat – leader of group that claimed responsibility for Saudi Arabia bomb attack – arrested in Baghdad

Iraq has arrested an Iranian-backed Shia militia leader whose group claimed responsibility for a mortar bomb attack near a border post in Saudi Arabia in November, police sources said on Thursday.

Wathiq al-Battat, commander of Iraq’s al-Mukhtar army militia, was arrested at a checkpoint in north-eastern Baghdad, a police source said.

The al-Mukhtar army is a relatively new Shia militia, which has said it is supported and funded by Iran. Battat is a former leader of Iraq’s better known Kata’ib Hezbollah militia.

Battat has said that his militia was behind the six mortar bombs that landed near the border post in northern Saudi Arabia on 21 November. There were no casualties, but the attack was a warning to the kingdom to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs, he told Reuters.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has had tense relations with the Shia-led Iraqi government, which it views as a pawn of Iran. It has not had an ambassador based in Baghdad since before the 1990-91 Gulf war.

Sectarian fighting in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 has involved Sunni militants close to al-Qaida as well as Shia militias.

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