Intel Officer: Murder of Hisham al-Hashimi Was Ordered by Shia Militia Kata’ib Hezbollah

February 9, 2021

In July 2020, the assassination of Hisham al-Hashimi sent shock waves throughout Iraq.

In the weeks before he was gunned down in his car while pulling up to his home, the prominent counterterrorism adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had been researching — and publicly criticizing — how Shia militia groups with suspected ties to Iran were destabilizing Iraq.

As the new FRONTLINE documentary Iraq’s Assassins recounts, al-Hashimi had been particularly focused on exposing the inner workings and secretive leadership of one powerful, Iran-backed militia: Kata’ib Hezbollah, which he said was “considered the strongest and most dangerous group in the so-called Islamic resistance.”

Officially, the Iraqi government said al-Hashimi’s murder is still under investigation. But in Iraq’s Assassins, an intelligence officer involved in the case speaks out, telling FRONTLINE that Kata’ib Hezbollah was responsible for al-Hishami’s assassination.

“Who are the people behind his killing?” correspondent Ramita Navai asks the official in the above excerpt from the film.

“Mercenaries hired by one of the powerful militias in Iraq as retribution for Hisham talking about them to the media … Kata’ib Hezbollah,” says the officer, who agreed to talk, as long as FRONTLINE concealed his identity.

“Even if you find absolute evidence, will there be justice?” Navai asks.

The officer’s response is telling: “Given Kata’ib Hezbollah’s influence in Iraq and the kidnapping or removal of anyone who opposes them, I don’t think so, no.”

Navai has been investigating the rise and power of Shia militias in Iraq, and their ties to Iran, for years, including in the 2017 FRONTLINE documentary Iraq Uncovered. These militias played a crucial role in Iraq’s fight against ISIS from 2014 through 2017 but have also been accused of abuses and lawlessness. In Iraq’s Assassins, premiering Tuesday, Feb. 9, Navai and her fellow producer and director Mais al-Bayaa uncover evidence that Shia militias have taken hold of power in Iraq like never before. Their latest documentary investigates allegations that the militias are threatening and killing critics with impunity and targeting U.S. and coalition interests in what many observers view as a proxy war between Iran and America.

“Why have we become the playing field for a conflict between countries that otherwise are free to live as normal?” asks Lodya Remon, a charity worker and activist who has been targeted by militias and whose friends have been among those gunned down in a wave of targeted killings. “These militias are just another form of ISIS.”

FRONTLINE was advised not to meet with Kata’ib Hezbollah while in Iraq because it was too dangerous. The film team sent questions to a representative of the group, who did not respond. As for Iran, it officially keeps its distance from the militias and has repeatedly denied being behind attacks against coalition and U.S. targets.

FRONTLINE’s hour-long broadcast on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, features two segments: Iraq’s Assassins and Yemen’s COVID Cover-Up. Both segments will be available to watch in full at and in the PBS Video App starting that night at 7/6c. The two-part hour will premiere on PBS stations (check local listings) and on YouTube at 10/9c.

Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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