Shafaq News/ Tension has been piling up between the demonstrators gathering at the gates of the Green Zone, downtown the Iraqi capital Baghdad, amid reports about arms hidden inside the sit-in tents pitched outside the heavily fortified area that houses government headquarters and international missions.
Sources revealed to Shafaq News Agency that the proponents of the armed factions and the Coordination Framework gathering outside the Green Zone amount to 2000-2500 persons, "80% of whom are on the payroll of al-Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization Forces-PMF]."
"The spearhead of the demonstration are Kata'ib Hezbollah fighters from the 45th,46th, and 47th PMF brigades. The 41st, 42nd, and 43rd brigades, which are affiliated with the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq movement, are in second place. However, the biggest impact is for Kata'ib Hezbollah, given they are the largest losers in the parliamentary election."
"Less than 30 demonstrators are affiliated with Jund al-Imam [group]. The Badr Organization also had a scanty presence with nearly 30 demonstrators," according to sources.
"Skirmishes occurred amongst the demonstrators themselves inside the sit-in tents. Every faction wishes to lead the scene; at the forefront, there is Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq."
According to our sources, "members of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq movement confirmed that all, or most of, the demonstrators are affiliated with the PMF. The minority belong to the Husseini parades, and supporters of the parties contesting the election results."
"The PMF fighters join the demonstrations on their vacations. After the expiry of their leaves, they go back to service in their brigades. It is a voluntary deed. They are not ordered or motivated by their command," the sources elaborated.
"Since pitching the tents on the first day of the demonstrations, arms were sneaked into the demonstration squares by Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq," multiple sources from both paramilitary groups asserted.
"The arms are kept as a precautionary measure in case the government forces did something during the protests," the sources added, "some of the PMF fighters do not trust the PMF security agency in spite of the latter's heavy deployment at the parameters of the square, establishing a first line of defense before the protestors."
On the security cordons surrounding the Green Zone, the sources explained, "the first line of defense in the PMF security agency. The second is the anti-riot police, then the 11th Commandos brigade and members from the Presidency Protection squads backed by the Special division. The final line is composed of the Tactical forces."
"The Federal Police maintain security inside the square. They also handle the inspection work at the square entrance.There is also a group of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq members known as 'the security [agents] and the Coordinators'. This group behaves oddly. They act capriciously with the people wishing to join the demonstrations and strictly with media and journalists."
On the Intelligence agents affiliated with the Ministry of Interior who were busted infiltrating the demonstrators, a source said, "they were dispatched by the Ministry to keep an eye upon the situation. Yet, members of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq exposed and apprehended them. Their situation was handled by the Asa'ib [Ahl al-Haq] and PMF commander Jawad al-Talibawi."
"The Badr Organization sent a few of its supporters into the demonstrations as a courtesy to the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and Kata'ib Hezbollah movements. The same applies to the Jund al-Imam."
"Tensions culminated drastically, and publicly, between the protesting factions. Some accused the Secretary-General of the Badr Organization and the head of al-Fatah bloc, Hadi al-Ameri, of complacency. Some others say that he is paying courtesy or compromising," a source stated, "even though some parties attempted to obfuscate the situation and hinder the access of media to this information."
"PMF's Chief of Staff, Abu Fadak al-Muhammadawi, instructed some PMF detachments stationing in the Falcon (Saqr) camp to maintain high alert status in case chaos erupted during the protests."
"Some anticipate that the security forces might encircle the protests at any moment. This might prompt al-Muhammadawi to instruct the forces in the Saqr camp, south the Iraqi capital, to move."
On the other bank, the state security agencies cracked down a set of precautionary measures to secure the Green Zone and contain any emergency, including the "deployment of an Abrams tank on the hanging bridge."
For their part, protestors asserted that they are "ready to escalate at any minute; particularly today after the statements of the U.S. State Department and ambassador to Baghdad that uphold the election and its results."
A security source reported on Tuesday (October 26, 2021) that a quarrel between members of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) demonstrating near the Green Zone and a force from the Iraqi army devolved into a brawl in which a PMF member sustained several injuries.
The cause of the scuffle was not disclosed, but both sides were detained and taken to inquiry by the security authorities in charge.