Iran-backed Iraqi militias say won’t be silent over alleged US strike

Shi'ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) carrying their weapons, advance towards the city of Al-Qaim. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 June 2018
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Iran-backed Iraqi militias say won’t be silent over alleged US strike

  • Iraqi forces hit by the airstrike had not made contact nor coordinated their presence there with Iraq’s Joint Operations Command
  • The PMF bolstered Iraq’s security forces during their battle to retake a third of the country from Daesh, helping secure victory against the militants

IRBIL: Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella grouping of mostly Iran-backed Shiite militias, said it would not remain silent over an alleged US airstrike it said killed 22 of its members across the border in Syria last week.
“To the Americans we say ... we will not be quiet about this attack,” senior PMF commander Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes, said in a video message.
In a news conference, Mohandes said the PMF had collected fragments of the missiles used in the strike, which he said proved it was a US attack.
This followed an accusation by the PMF on Monday that the US airstrike wounded a further 12 of its members in the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal.
The US has denied involvement in the strike. The Iraqi military said none of its troops tasked with securing the Iraqi-Syrian border had been hit by the air strike.
Iraqi forces hit by the airstrike had not made contact nor coordinated their presence there with Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, the military added.
The PMF bolstered Iraq’s security forces during their battle to retake a third of the country from Daesh, helping secure victory against the militants. They were later formally integrated into Iraq’s official security structure.
Though Iraq conducts cross-border strikes against Daesh positions in Syria, its security forces do not maintain a ground force. However, several PMF militias have supported Syrian regime forces on the ground for years.
Mohandes is one of Iran’s most powerful allies in Iraq. He formerly headed the Kataib Hezbollah militia, one of the closest to Tehran. The two brigades hit in last week’s airstrike were affiliates of Kataib Hezbollah.
The dispute comes amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran, precipitated by US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear agreement.
Washington last month said it would impose new economic sanctions on Tehran.
In a separate development, security and medical sources said attackers had slit the throats of the mother and three sisters of an Iraqi election commission employee in their home.
The employee, from the Turkmen minority in the town of Hamrin in ethnically mixed Diyala Province, was not at home at the time and was unharmed, the sources said. No group had claimed responsibility for the killings late on Sunday.
Daesh threatened to attack Iraq’s May parliamentary election and anyone who assisted in it. At least one candidate was killed before the vote but the group did not claim responsibility for his killing.
A security source said security forces had launched an operation in the north of the province against Daesh.


Syria's return to Arab League not on summit agenda: spokesman

Updated 21 min 48 sec ago
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Syria's return to Arab League not on summit agenda: spokesman

  • The pan-Arab bloc, which is set to hold its annual summit in Tunisia on March 31, froze Syria's membership in November 2011 over a bloody government crackdown on protestors
  • But several of the bloc's other 21 members have recently renewed ties with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad

CAIRO: The Arab League said Sunday it was not planning to discuss reinstating Syria's membership at a summit later this month, more than eight years after suspending it as the country descended into war.
The pan-Arab bloc, which is set to hold its annual summit in Tunisia on March 31, froze Syria's membership in November 2011 over a bloody government crackdown on protestors.
But several of the bloc's other 21 members have recently renewed ties with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and some have called for Syria to be re-admitted to the league.
"The issue of Syria's return to the Arab League has yet to be listed on the agenda and has not been formally proposed," said the League's spokesman Mahmoud Afifi.
He noted that the "Syrian crisis" however still tops the agenda, along with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the situation in Yemen and Libya.
Syria's conflict flared in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that sparked a brutal regime crackdown.
It has since drawn in regional powers, killing 370,000 people and displacing millions.
But the regime, backed by allies Russia and Iran, has since re-conquered much of the territory it had lost to rebels and terrorists, and now controls some two-thirds of the country.
Syria's Kurds, which declared victory over Daesh on Saturday, control much of the oil-rich northeast, which the regime has hinted it may seize back in a military operation.
Earlier this month, Syrian officials attended a meeting of Arab states in neighbouring Jordan for the first time since the country's Arab League membership was suspended.
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in December made the first visit of any Arab leader to the Syrian capital since 2011.
The same month, Egypt hosted Syria's national security chief and top Assad aide Ali Mamluk.
The UAE also reopened its Damascus embassy in a major sign of a diplomatic thaw.
Arab states have also slammed US President Donald Trump's call for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic territory the Jewish state seized from Syria in 1967.