ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Hazem al-Araji, the representative of firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, survived an assassination attempt in Baghdad on Friday, his secretary has told Rudaw.
Ali al-Obeidi said that the incident took place at 5:30pm, in a ceremony commemorating killed members of a Sadr-led militia in al-Shuala district, eastern Baghdad.
“Armed men in two BMWs opened fire near Araji and hit a member of his personal bodyguard, which led to an exchange of fire between Araji’s bodyguards and the militants,” Obeidi said.
He believes political parties are behind the attempted murder, but would not name them.
In February, Araji was assigned by Sadr to represent “the administration of Basra Governorate” which has seen significant bloodshed since the protest movement began in 2019.
Hundreds of protesters have been killed and kidnapped by security forces and Iran-backed militias since October 2019.
The ceremony was commemorating members of the “Mahdi Army,” created in 2003 by Sadr in a response to US invasion at a time. The Madhi militia was involved in acts of violence and killing of civilians that led to Sadr’s decision to freeze its activities in 2007. However, in February 2020, Sadr said that “defrosting” the Mahdi Army and returning it to the forefront only needs “a matchstick”.
Sadr has been a vocal supporter of reform and anti-corruption campaigns for years. When anti-government protests broke out in October 2019, he sent members of his Saraya al-Salam militia to protect the demonstrators. However, Sadr changed his position and by February 2020, his militias were involved in suppression of the protests.