ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Saturday, an explosion rocked the Iraqi city of Mosul, wounding at least two people. Minutes after, social media users circulated a video captured by a surveillance camera purported to have been the moment of the blast. They also later posted pictures of the alleged bomber.
The incident occurred near a popular fast food restaurant in the western part of the city and bore the markers of other recent bombings in Mosul, which the Islamic State overran in 2014 and held for close to three years. The terrorist group, however, has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.
Many local officials and residents described the episodes as part of an ongoing power struggle between influential forces in the province as a whole, namely the various militias and political wings that have been stationed in Nineveh Province since it was recaptured from the Islamic State.
In the video posted on social media, a young man can be seen close to a motorcycle which he allegedly left behind. Moments later, the bike detonates, with the shockwave from it knocking down the surveillance camera.
Others posted simultaneous stills from another camera purported to be of the individual, whom they claimed parked the explosive-laden vehicle, walking to an unspecified destination on the pavement across the street.
The person is wearing a black and red T-shirt and a sports cap. Multiple users seem to have recognized the youth as a member of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia.
Pictures of the alleged perpetrator showed him in the militia group’s military uniform and another while he was inside a Hashd al-Shaabi office. Kurdistan 24 could not immediately verify the accuracy of the pictures.
Amid ongoing widespread accusations, Nineveh Operations Commander Major General Najm al-Jubouri was quick to issue an explanatory statement and said that the person who appeared in the pictures “handed himself to the police Nineveh and after comparing him to the [suspect’s] pictures…it was found there is a significant difference, and he [the youth] had nothing to do with the incident.”
He added further that the security apparatus’ investigations into the circumstances of the bombing was “still ongoing,” and called on all media “not to promote rumors.”
In statements to Kurdistan 24, informed local sources explained that the man identified by social media users was a person by the name of Dhahir al-Jubouri—a fellow tribesman of the general—who is a member of the 50th brigade of the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
A spokesman for the brigade, Major General Dhafer Lawis, added in a statement that “according to security intelligence, Dhahir al-Jubouri belongs to the Hashd al-Ashayari [Tribal Mobilization Forces (TMF)].”
He explained that the TMF “is not administratively linked” to the PMF. The Hashd al-Ashayari, as they are known in Arabic, is a Sunni militia group that is closely affiliated with and is believed to be under the payroll of the Hashd al-Shaabi.
Various armed groups in Iraq have loyalties to different political entities, of which there are many currently competing for rule of the province.
This came following the sacking of the previous governor along with multiple other officials amid a massive corruption scandal in the province, which faced near-total destruction at the hands of the Islamic State and their subsequent expulsion by the Iraqi security forces.
Editing by Nadia Riva