Blasts Hit Militia Group Position at Iraq's Balad Air Base: Security Sources

Clay Curtis
August 23, 2019

A spokesman for the PMF said it had intelligence that showed the USA had brought in four Israeli drones earlier this year to work as part of the United States fleet in Iraq and target militia positions in the country.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said the force would use "all means at its disposal" to prevent and deter future attacks.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Iran and Iranian-backed forces in Syria in recent years and there has been speculation that Israel may be now expanding its targeting of Iran into neighboring Iraq.

Iraq hosts American troops and forces belonging to the US coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which conduct frequent reconnaissance missions as well as occasional airstrikes in the country.

"This strategy is probably coordinated with the United States, as part of the Trump administration's "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran", Bitar said.

A panel created by the government to investigate that blast ruled out earlier suggestions that it was caused by an electrical short circuit or faulty storage of munitions.

The most recent of the explosions at PMF positions came Tuesday night, at a munitions depot north of Baghdad.

Israel is known to have struck Iran-related targets in Syria on numerous occasions - as well as in Lebanon and Sudan in the past. "We will act - and now are acting - against them, wherever it is necessary", he said during a visit to Ukraine, quoted in the Times of Israel newspaper.

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But observers say the latest reported attacks on the Hashed indicate another player, Israel, may be involved.

The string of incidents at PMF bases began in mid-July, when an Iraqi fighter was killed and two Iranians were wounded in shelling on a base in Iraq's Amerli region by "an unidentified drone", according to a statement by the Iraqi joint operations command. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, following last week's blast, ordered all ammunition dumps belonging to the armed forces or paramilitary groups to be moved outside of cities.

That attack, on the al-Shuhada base of the PMF, was also initially blamed on a drone strike amid reported allegations that the facility had recently received a shipment of Iranian ballistic missiles. A copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Earlier this summer, a string of rocket attacks targeted several bases where USA troops are stationed as well as American commercial interests.

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

The blast shook the Iraqi capital and sent explosives and mortar shells shooting into the sky, damaging nearby homes and terrifying residents who ran into the streets with their cellphones.

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