Pompeo hints at Iran links in killing of Iraq expert

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington DC on July 8, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 08 July 2020

Pompeo hints at Iran links in killing of Iraq expert

  • Hisham Al-Hashemi was gunned down outside his Baghdad home by masked assailants
  • He was an internationally known scholar whose vast contacts inside Iraq made him a mediator among rivals

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday demanded justice over the killing of a prominent Iraqi extremist expert and highlighted threats against him by Iran-linked groups.
Hisham Al-Hashemi, an internationally known scholar whose vast contacts inside Iraq made him a mediator among rivals, was gunned down outside his Baghdad home late Monday by masked assailants on motorcycles.
“In the days leading up to his death he was repeatedly threatened by Iran backed armed groups,” Pompeo told a news conference in Washington, without explicitly blaming Tehran.
“The United States joins partner nations in strongly condemning his assassination and call(ing) for the government of Iraq to bring to justice the perpetrators of this terrible crime... swiftly,” he said.
Hashemi was an authoritative voice on extremist movements including Daesh, which are violently opposed to Iran.
But he infuriated Tehran-backed factions in Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi military network through his support of popular protests last year against a Baghdad government seen as too close to Iran.
Some experts have voiced fear of a new violent phase in Iraq and believe the turning point may have come in January when a US strike in Baghdad killed a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.
President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to check Iran’s regional activities and choke its economy and frequently seeks to throw a spotlight on purported nefarious activities backed by the clerical state.


UNESCO to protect Lebanon as 60 historic buildings ‘risk collapse’

Updated 34 min 34 sec ago

UNESCO to protect Lebanon as 60 historic buildings ‘risk collapse’

  • Even before the explosion, there had been growing concern in Lebanon about the condition of heritage in Beirut due to rampant construction
  • Some of the worst damage was in the Gemmayzeh and Mar-Mikhael neighborhoods a short distance from Beirut port

PARIS: The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO vowed Thursday to lead efforts to protect vulnerable heritage in Lebanon after last week’s gigantic Beirut port blast, warning that 60 historic buildings were at risk of collapse.
The effects of the blast were felt all over the Lebanese capital but some of the worst damage was in the Gemmayzeh and Mar-Mikhael neighborhoods a short distance from the port. Both are home to a large concentration of historic buildings.
“The international community has sent a strong signal of support to Lebanon following this tragedy,” said Ernesto Ottone, assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture.
“UNESCO is committed to leading the response in the field of culture, which must form a key part of wider reconstruction and recovery efforts.”
Sarkis Khoury, head of antiquities at the ministry of culture in Lebanon, reported at an online meeting this week to coordinate the response that at least 8,000 buildings were affected, said the Paris-based organization.
“Among them are some 640 historic buildings, approximately 60 of which are at risk of collapse,” UNESCO said in a statement.
“He (Khoury) also spoke of the impact of the explosion on major museums, such as the National Museum of Beirut, the Sursock Museum and the Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut, as well as cultural spaces, galleries and religious sites.”
Even before the explosion, there had been growing concern in Lebanon about the condition of heritage in Beirut due to rampant construction and a lack of preservation for historic buildings in the densely-packed city.
UNESCO said Khoury “stressed the need for urgent structural consolidation and waterproofing interventions to prevent further damage from approaching autumn rains.”
The explosion on August 4, which left 171 people dead, has been blamed on a vast stock of ammonium nitrate left in a warehouse at the port for years despite repeated warnings.
Lebanon’s government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned this week following days of demonstrations demanding accountability for the disaster.