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.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.