On Monday evening, he was shot dead. Unknown assailants travelling on motorcycles walked up to his parked car near his home in Baghdad’s Zayouna district and shot him multiple times in the head and torso, according to surveillance video shown on Iraqi television stations.
A photo showed the 47-year-old’s lifeless, blood-splattered body lying on a hospital gurnee. On Tuesday, friends and family carried his body to his home, in a wooden casket draped with the Iraqi flag, then drove him through Baghdad traffic to the cemetery in the city of Najaf for burial.
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] Prime Minister [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , who was a personal friend of Hashimi, vowed to find the killers. The interior ministry announced the formation of a special investigative group to pursue the assassins.
“We pledge to pursue the killers to bring them to justice, and we will not allow the assassinations to return to Iraq to undermine security and stability,” Mr Kadhimi was quoted as saying in a statement after the incident.
The United States Embassy in Iraq issued a statement calling on the Iraqi government “to bring those responsible for his murder to swift justice.”
Suspicion for the assassination fell on Iranian-backed Shia militias, especially the group Katayeb Hezbollah, whose members and leaders have sparred with Hashimi on social media.
Hashimi was a prominent expert on both armed Shia militias and Sunni insurgents groups. He was a frequent guest on Arabic-language television stations, especially the Saudi-backed al-Hadath network.
According to the Dubai-based channel, he was working on a report on Shia militias surmising that some 70,000 of the fighters, many of whom are part of the Iraqi security forces, are loyal to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] .
Hashimi leaves behind three young children and wife. He was generous with his time, frequently meeting for hours with local and foreign journalists and scholars to discuss the nature of Iraqi armed groups. He explained in a chat during one of numerous interviews he has given Western journalists visiting Baghdad that although he was born a Shia and now identified with secular Iraqis, he had flirted once with Sunni extremism and understood the psychology that drove them.
“We have known Husham as a man of immense integrity and courage, who advocated vehemently and honorably for a peaceful and prosperous Iraq,” said a statement by the Washington think tank Centre for Global Policy. “He went where very few others dared. And for that, he paid with his life.”
Hashimi identified strongly with Iraq’s youthful, non-sectarian protest movement which erupted last year demanding political and social changes, including a curtailing of corruption and the dismantling of militias that have become akin to mafias lording over the government.
“Most of the youth are asking the politicians for a piece of bread,” Hashimi wrote in his last Tweet before he was killed.
Mr Kadhimi, who came to power in May, has vowed to crack down on some of the groups, recently arresting more than a dozen members of Katayeb Hezbollah for alleged attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone, which includes the US embassy, before releasing them after the militia abducted members of the army’s elite counter-terrorism force.
Hashimi was critical of the move, speaking about the events in television interviews. One friend said he had warned him that he was going too far in his criticism; only Iraqis based abroad spoke with so little restraint.
“The hosts on the shows kept encouraging him to say more and more harsh things,” said the friend.
In one recent television interview, a militia leader accused Hashimi of providing the prime minister with disinformation about armed groups.
“Husham al-Hashimi,” said the leader. “I can say his name. He is linked to Kadhimi and his job is to disseminate false information.”
Hashimi served occasionally as an official adviser to the government, especially when it was fighting a years-long war to dislodge Isis from northern Iraq.
Iran’s embassy in Baghdad condemned the killing, as did the leader of the Popular Mobilisation Units, which includes militias without strong connections to Iran. The official Islamic Republic News Agency cited a fake claim for the attack by Isis, which also despised Hashimi and had threatened him over the years.
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