Published: Fri, August 23, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Iran-backed militias blame US for attacks

Iran-backed militias blame US for attacks

Iraq's paramilitary groups backed by Iran have blamed a series of recent blasts at their weapons depots and bases on the United States and Israel, vowing to defend themselves against any future attack.

Al-Saqr was among a string of explosions that hit militia bases and munitions depots over the past several weeks.

The CIA, however, also runs its own clandestine drone program separate from the US military.

"We announce that the first and last entity responsible for what happened are American forces, and we will hold them responsible for whatever happens from today onwards", the paramilitary group said in a statement.

The statement said the attacks were carried out by "agents or in special operations with modern air planes", but did not provide further details.

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.

However, neither the Iraqi government nor Israel have addressed the reports.

The U.S. -led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.

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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.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks however Iraqi authorities suspended all licences for foreign military aircraft following the blasts at the Iranian-backed militia base, which it believed was caused by a suspected Israeli airstrike, a statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said.

The Pentagon denied at the time that it was involved in that incident. The deadliest, a July 19 blast, was blamed on a drone that hit a base in Amirli, northern Iraq, killing two Iranians and causing a huge fire. Israel has reportedly been behind bombings against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria.

The report, outlining the findings of the committee, says the August 12 explosion at the al-Saqr military base, which killed one civilian and wounded 28, wasn't caused by faulty storage or an electricity circuit as had been suggested. It didn't say who the drone belonged to.

Israel has warned repeatedly that it will not allow Iranian presence in Syria, and has admitted to perpetrating hundreds of airstrikes, preventing the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah that included surface-to-air missile kits.

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

The officials who confirmed the explosion spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. It happened not far from Iraq's Balad Air Base, where the US and its allies in the coalition against the Islamic State are housed.

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