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Iraq's Leading Expert On ISIS Shot Dead After Receiving Threats


In Baghdad, a leading expert on ISIS was shot dead yesterday after receiving threats from both ISIS and Iran-backed militias. As NPR's Jane Arraf reports, the killing is prompting fears for Iraq's security as U.S. troops reduce their role.


JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Mourners and a brass band accompanied the body of Hisham al-Hashemi to the cemetery in the holy city of Najaf. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was a small group, but Hashemi, who was 47, had a huge influence. He'd interviewed ISIS leaders, mapped the structure of the organization and advised the Iraqi government and the international military coalition on counterterrorism. He also tracked Iran-backed militias.


HISHAM AL-HASHEMI: (Non-English language spoken).

ARRAF: That's Hashemi in an interview on Iraqi television just an hour before he was killed. He'd been threatened by both ISIS and Iran-backed militias, but he refused to leave Baghdad. Security footage authenticated by Iraqi officials shows gunmen arriving on motorcycles. They shoot Hashemi repeatedly as he pulls up to his house in his car. Hashemi was a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Policy. He was also on the board of the Iraq Advisory Council think tank, where chairman Farhad Alaaldin describes him as brave and brainy. He says his killing serves as a warning.

FARHAD ALAALDIN: It says a lot that there is a big gap in security, and the Iraqi government must take extreme measures to crack down on this.

ARRAF: New Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has vowed to find the killers. One of his main promises when he took office was to crack down on Iran-backed militias. It's a demand of the U.S. government as well.

While Iraq and the U.S. negotiate a new agreement between the two countries over U.S. forces, the U.S. military is quietly been drawing down. Last week it announced it was transitioning from a task force aimed at fighting ISIS to a smaller advisory group training Iraqi forces. But while the U.S. draws down, Hashemi's killing show security in Iraq still has a long way to go.

Jane Arraf, NPR News, Amman, Jordan.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.