Explosions at pro-Iran faction’s arms store in Baghdad ‘were deliberate’

A man inspects the damage at a mosque near a weapons depot of an Iraqi militia group after a fire broke out in the depot in Baghdad on August 13, 2019. (REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily)
Updated 14 August 2019

Explosions at pro-Iran faction’s arms store in Baghdad ‘were deliberate’

  • One civilian died and 37 were injured in the blasts at the Falcon weapons store, when arms belonging to the pro-Iran Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada armed group exploded

BAGHDAD: A series of explosions in an arms depot in the southern suburbs of Baghdad was deliberate, and not the result of an accident or negligence, a senior national security official told Arab News on Tuesday.

One civilian died and 37 were injured in the blasts on Monday night at the Falcon weapons store, when arms belonging to the pro-Iran Kata’ib Sayyid Al-Shuhada armed group exploded, leading to the launch of short-range Katyusha rockets in all directions.

The blasts caused panic in areas south of Baghdad, where dozens of families took to the streets in fear. 

Civil Defense teams evacuated nearby areas and Baghdad military command cut off the main road between Baghdad and the southern provinces. 

Troops in the capital were on high alert until the early hours of Tuesday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited the scene on Tuesday morning and ordered an investigation. 

Preliminary results confirmed that the bombing “was deliberate” and “was not a result of negligence,” a senior national security official told Arab News.

“Preliminary information indicates that the bombing was planned and carried out by an external act,” the official said.

“It is too early to say how the bombing was carried out, but the drones hypothesis is currently excluded.”

A federal police officer told Arab News the commanders of the pro-Iran armed factions “insist on repeating the same story, that a drone struck the warehouse with a missile, but they have nothing to support this theory. Aerial photographs and radar showed nothing.”

Monday’s explosion is the 16th of its kind in less than three years, targeting stocks of military equipment mostly belonging to pro-Iran Shiite armed factions deployed across the country.

“I can say for sure, we expect more of these bombings in the future,” the officer said.


US Military: Russia has deployed military aircraft to Libya

Updated 26 May 2020

US Military: Russia has deployed military aircraft to Libya

  • Libya has been gripped by violence since Qaddafi was overthrown in 2011

LONDON: The US military said Tuesday that Russia has recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya.

The jets are likely to be providing air support for the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor operating in Libya, the US Africa Command said.

The statement also said Moscow has employed the state-sponsored contractor in Libya to conceal its direct role and to afford Moscow “plausible deniability” of its actions.

US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US’ Africa mission, said: “Just like I saw (Russia) doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner.”

The statement warned that Russian presence in Libya could “exacerbate the regional instability that has driven the migration crisis affecting Europe.”

Libya has been gripped by chaos since longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and west vying for power.

In April, the UN-recognised Government of National Accord rejected a truce unilaterally proposed by the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), saying it “did not trust” them.

The LNA is led by the commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli last year.

His forces have suffered a series of setbacks in recent months as Turkey stepped up support for for the Government of National Accord and the militias that support it.