Hizbullah Brigades: The U.K. Will Pay The Price For Its Involvement In The Riots At The Iranian Consulate In Iraq's Karbala Following The Murder Of Iraqi Political Activist Al-Wazni

May 11, 2021

The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI's Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM). For JTTM subscription information, click here.

On the night between the eighth and ninth of May, unknown individuals used a gun with a silencer to kill Iraqi political activist Ihab Al-Wazni near his home in the city center of Karbala in southern Iraq. Al-Wazni was one of the leaders of the wave of mass demonstrations surging through Iraq in October 2019, which protested against corruption in the government of 'Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and against its subordination to Iran.[1]

The U.S. and the U.K. have condemned the murder. British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel that since 2019, political activists in Iraq have been targeted in serious attacks, but that no one has yet been prosecuted. Hickey urged that agreements be reached with "the factions and the people responsible for the attacks on the activists, journalists and politicians." The ambassador stated that Iraq's neighboring countries should support the democratic process in Iraq, saying: "Unfortunately, for a while now we have seen that Iran, for example, supports the armed factions, which are active beyond the control of the country. It is crucial that Iran support the government institutions and not the factions."[2]

It is not only the British ambassador who suspects that the Shi'ite militias supported by Iran, and that Iran itself, are responsible for the murder of Al-Wazni. Several hours after the assassination, riots broke out in the city of Karbala and in other cities in southern Iraq. In Karbala, demonstrators congregated near the Iranian Consulate complex in the city, where, according to several reports, they set fire to guard posts [3]

Following these incidents, the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad released a statement in which it condemned the murder of Al-Wazni and stressed that Iran is endeavoring to assist Iraq. The embassy urged that diplomatic missions not be attacked and called for the prosecution of both the murderers of Al-Wazni and of the demonstrators who stormed the Iranian Consulate in Karbala. The Embassy emphasized that "Iran never requested the assassination of Iraqi citizens and strongly condemns every act of terror."[4]

In light of the severe accusations directed at Iran regarding its involvement in the murder of the activist, the political bureau of the Hizbullah Brigades, one of the Iraqi Shi'ite militias loyal to Iran, published a statement claiming that the U.K. was behind the events at Karbala and had incited Iraqis against Iran and the Shi'ite militias. The Hizbullah Brigades threatened that Britain and its collaborators in the region and in Iraq will pay the price for these alleged deeds.

A statement published on the Hizbullah Brigades' Telegram channel read: "The forces of evil and destruction try again and again to harm our security[,] to destabilize us by mobilizing groups which they have led astray in order to provoke civil wars and crises and to drag Iraqi society into an internal war. What took place in the holy city of Karbala is the result of struggles and the settling of accounts between elements related to foreign plots[,] which propel our youth toward death. This is so that they can exploit their blood to set their vicious goals into motion.

"After the [forces of evil] realized that the parties they created and the dubious puppets they operate will not succeed in changing the result of the coming elections, and [once they] realized that total failure awaits them in the elections, they sought to stir up chaos, [in order] to prevent the elections from being held, thus serving the forces which control and support the current government.

"The attacks on the offices of the representative of the Hajj and the Iranian pilgrimage... and the burning of the flag upon which is written 'Allah' [i.e. the Iranian flag] exposed those who are behind [these attacks,] who do not respect the sanctity of the city[,] which should be demilitarized[,] and who insist on pushing the situation within [the city] toward destruction and vengeance. These elements forget that the Iraqi people who extricated themselves in order to defend their homeland and holy places, and who defeated the gangs of the Islamic State [ISIS] and thwarted their plans – are prepared to defend our city, our holy places, and those who undertake pilgrimage to them...

"Our enemies should not be under the illusion that we are not aware of their plans. We will present the facts to our beloved people. The threads of this plot were woven in the British Embassies of evil in Baghdad and Beirut. This is blatant hostile intervention and intrigue, the price for which will be paid by this despicable colonialist country, and by all the regional, local, and international forces whose insistence on attacking our people can only be stopped by an assault targeting their reeking, empty heads."

As stated, since the outbreak of the riots against 'Abd Al-Mahdi's government in 2019, several political activists in Iraq who had been involved were murdered. Among them was prominent security analyst Husham Al-Hashimi, who was killed by gunmen on July 2020, near his home in Zayona district, northeast Baghdad, an area that is heavily controlled by the Iran-backed Hizbullah Brigades.[5]

Al-Wazni himself was the target of an assassination attempt in December 2019, when masked men opened fire on him and activist Fahim Al-Ta’ii, using a pistol with a silencer. Al-Ta’ii was killed in the attack. According to a report in the Al-Arab daily, Al-Wazni had previously informed security forces that he had received death threats.[6]

Journalists, too, have been targeted by death threats. On September 13, 2020, the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya network website reported that journalists employed in Iraq by Jordan-based Dijlah Television have resigned and gone into hiding amid a campaign of threats. The threats were made in response to the broadcasting of a concert on the network's music channel during 'Ashura, a solemn holy day observed by Shi'ites.[7]


[1] Following the demonstrations, Abd Al-Mahdi resigned and in May 2020, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi was appointed Prime Minister.

[2] Alarabiya.net, May 9, 2021.

[3] Telegram.me/IranianArabic, May 9, 2021.

[4] Telegram, May 10, 2021

[6] Alarab.co.uk, May 10, 2021

The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

Read More