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Iraq Arrests Shi'ite Militia Commander

Iraqi federal policemen stand guard at a checkpoint in Basra Jan. 2, 2014. The Iraqi government has tightened security measures after security forces reportedly arrested al-Mukhtar Army commander, Wathiq al-Batat.
Iraq has arrested an Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia leader whose group claimed responsibility for a mortar bomb attack near a border post in Saudi Arabia in November, police sources said on Thursday.

Wathiq al-Batat, commander of Iraq's al-Mukhtar Army militia, was arrested at a check point in northeastern Baghdad, a police source told Reuters.

The al-Mukhtar Army is a relatively new Shi'ite militia, which has said it is supported and funded by Iran. Batat is a former leader of Iraq's better known Kata'ib Hezbollah militia.

Batat said his militia was behind the six mortar bombs that landed near the border post in northern Saudi Arabia on November 21. There were no casualties, but the attack was a warning to the kingdom to stop meddling in Iraqi affairs, he told Reuters.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia has had tense relations with the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government, which it views as a pawn of Iran. It has not had an ambassador based in Baghdad since before the 1990-91 Gulf war.

Sectarian fighting in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 has involved Sunni militants close to al-Qaida as well as Shi'ite militias which have no affinity for Saudi Arabia.