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.


Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government

Updated 38 min 32 sec ago

Netanyahu urges rival Gantz to form unity government

  • Gantz is yet to respond to the approach by Netanyahu
  • The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Thursday on his main rival, former general Benny Gantz, to join him in a broad, governing coalition after Israel’s election ended with no clear winner.
A spokeswoman for Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, had no immediate response to the surprise offer from Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party.
The change of strategy reflected Netanyahu’s weakened position after he failed again in Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive ballot in April, to secure a parliamentary majority.
“During the election campaign, I called for the establishment of a right-wing government but to my regret, the election results show that this is impossible,” Netanyahu said.
“Benny, we must set up a broad unity government, as soon as today. The nation expects us, both of us, to demonstrate responsibility and that we pursue cooperation.”
On Wednesday, Gantz said he hoped for a “good, desirable unity government.” But he has also ruled out forming one with a Netanyahu-led Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the prime minister. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.