Iraq frees Iran-aligned militia leader arrested in May

Government says Qasim Muslih has been released following insufficient evidence against him in what military says are terrorism-related charges.

BAGHDAD - Iraq has released an Iran-aligned militia commander arrested in May on what the military said were terrorism-related charges after finding insufficient evidence against him, government and paramilitary officials said on Wednesday,

Security forces arrested Qasim Muslih, who commands the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq's western Anbar province, on May 26.

The military said the charges were terrorism-related but did not give details.

The PMF is Iraq's state paramilitary grouping that includes mostly Shiite Muslim factions and is dominated by Iran-backed groups. Muslih is seen by Western and some Iraqi officials as being aligned with Iran.

Security sources told Reuters Muslih's arrest was linked with attacks on a military base that hosts US forces.

Some media and analysts reported that he had been arrested over alleged links with the killing of peaceful pro-democracy activists.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has placed himself publicly in opposition to Iran-backed militias and parties, and Muslih's arrest was a major attempt to rein in their power.

It echoed another attempt to bring Iran-backed militias under control, when in June last year Kadhimi ordered the arrest of militants alleged to have fired rockets at US targets.

On both occasions, paramilitary groups deployed in force inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, where foreign embassies and government buildings are located, no prosecutions were made and those arrested were released.