Iran-backed militias blame US for strikes on arms depots in Iraq

The PMF said they would respond appropriately to "foreign aircraft" flying over their facilities without the knowledge of the Iraqi government.
author_image Kosar Nawzad

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi militias on Wednesday said the United States is “ultimately responsible” for a series of blasts at warehouses the Iran-backed paramilitary organization operates. They affirmed that incidents were due to aerial strikes and warned they would respond to any violation of Iraqi airspace with “sophisticated weapons.”

The words came in a rare statement, signed by the deputy chairman of Hashd al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, after a run of costly explosions involving facilities operated by militias under the umbrella group, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

The latest purported attack occurred in a compound reportedly belonging to the Kata’ib Imam Ali militias. Rockets flew from the site omnidirectionally as various ordnances continued to explode for hours. Some missiles landed at the nearby Balad airbase, which houses US servicemembers.

Related Article: Explosions rock Iraqi militia arms depot near airbase housing US personnel

This marked the fourth incident of the sort since last month, with many pointing to Israel as the actor behind them, using aerial attacks to target Iranian entities or proxies. In one of the reported attacks, at least one member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was killed.

Archrivals in the region, Israel has previously struck Iranian targets in Syria as well amid Tehran’s continued support for proxies that periodically attack Israel. The US considers the IRGC along with many of its regional militia allies terrorist organizations.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday hinted his country was behind the incidents. “Iran has no immunity, anywhere,” Netanyahu told reporters at his hotel while on a visit in Ukraine, according to The Times of Israel.

Related Article: Israel attacks Iranian targets in Iraq

The PMF alleged that in 2019, the US had transported four “Israeli drones” into Iraq that are merged into the American fleet to “carry out sorties” that target their facilities. The militias said they had “accurate information” that backs their claim.

“Lately,” the statement added, US planes “have been surveying our bases instead of tracking Da’esh [ISIS].”

Related Article: US-led coalition announces ‘immediate compliance’ with Iraq’s airspace order

The PMF finds “the American forces ultimately responsible for what has happened and will hold them accountable for what occurs as of today. We have no choice but to defend ourselves and headquarters with currently available weapons and by using [other], more sophisticated weapons.”

The militia conglomerate affirmed, “we have informed the Joint Operations Command that we will consider any foreign aircraft flying over our headquarters, without the knowledge of the Iraqi government, hostile and we will deal with it accordingly.”

Last week’s blasts took place inside a PMF base in the capital city of Baghdad. At least one person was killed, and about 30 others were injured then. Many civilians living in surrounding areas began to flee in their cars as Katyusha rockets continued to land nearby.

This prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to action. He issued a decree that mandates all armament storage facilities outside cities. It also aims to put stricter measures on the use of the country’s airspace by all types of military aircraft.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany