Monday, 16 September, 2019

Israeli drones struck bases in Iraq, claims Iranian proxy force

The explosion is the latest in a series of mysterious blasts to rock military bases and weapons depots around the country U.S. military now needs permission from Iraqi PM before it can provide air support to ground troops
Patty Aguilar | 23 August, 2019, 04:00

Iraqi paramilitary units said Wednesday they held the United States responsible for a string of mysterious blasts in recent weeks at their bases, renewing fears of a possible proxy war.

"We have accurate and confirmed information that this year, the Americans allowed four Israeli drones [into Iraq] via Azerbaijan to work within the USA fleet to carry out sorties targeting Iraqi military headquarters", said al-Mohandes. "We have no choice but to defend ourselves and our bases with the weapons at our disposal", said the statement, signed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the powerful deputy head of the PMF who once battled USA troops in Iraq.

The report instead blamed it on a drone strike that caused a huge fire.

The Iraqi Civil Defense said in a statement that the blast occurred near Balad air base, one of the country's largest, which is home to US trainers and is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, the umbrella group for the government-sanctioned Shiite militias in Iraq, issued a rare public statement Wednesday saying they were holding Israel and the Trump administration directly responsible for the attacks. Iraq declared victory over Islamic States in 2017, but there are still operations near-weekly against the group.

Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, and there has been speculation that it might be expanding its campaign to target Iranian bases to include Iraq.

"I've said that Iran doesn't have immunity anywhere, and I meant that", he told journalists in Kiev, after he was asked about the attacks in Iraq. Israel has reportedly been behind bombings against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria. "We will act - and now are acting - against them, wherever it is necessary".

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At the same time, Iraq hosts American troops and forces belonging to the USA coalition fighting IS, which conduct frequent reconnaissance missions and occasional airstrikes.

On 12 August, an even bigger explosion at a Popular Mobilisation arms depot at the al-Saqr military base near Baghdad killed one civilian and wounded 29 others. The base housed a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the PMF. The exact cause for the blast, which terrified residents and damaged nearby homes, is still unknown although some officials blamed it on faulty storage. It didn't say whom the drone belonged to.

It was reportedly done without affecting the USA military presence in Iraq.

They said the blast occurred in a depot belonging to the PMF and that an investigation was underway.

Following a national security meeting last week to discuss the string of attacks, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered a ban on all military flights throughout the country - including by members of the US -led coalition in Iraq - unless specifically authorized by the Defense Ministry.

The US-led coalition in Iraq declined to respond directly to the Hashed's accusations on Wednesday, referring AFP to the Iraqi government.

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