BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has cancelled airspace access for the international anti-Daesh coalition and several armed factions.
Air defense will treat any breach as “hostile aviation” and respond to it, Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement on Thursday.
The restriction includes armed and unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters, fighter jets and all types of drones that have been used by the US-led international military coalition, Iraqi security forces and Shiite paramilitary troops.
All of these groups have had full access to Iraqi airspace since October 2014, when Baghdad launched military campaigns to liberate territories seized by Daesh militants in the northern and western parts of the country.
Mahdi’s decision is part of a series of measures taken to deal with the repercussions of the Camp Falcon weapons cache explosion that rocked Baghdad on Monday evening.
Short-range Katyusha rockets and shrapnel from the blast killed a civilian and wounded 37 others. The attack destroyed a weapons cache belonging to the pro-Iran Kataib Sayyid Al-Shuhada group and partially damaged a nearby cache belonging to federal police.
An expert at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense estimated that the damage to the two stores cost at least $109 million (SR409 million).
“All approvals to fly in Iraqi airspace for all Iraqi and none Iraqi parties are cancelled. No flights are allowed without the exclusive consent of the General Commander of the Iraqi Armed Forces or his authorized representative,” said Iraqi Joint Operations Command.
“All parties shall strictly abide by this directive and any traffic in contravention of it shall be deemed to be a hostile aviation handled immediately by our air defenses.”
Mahdi’s decision aims to stop the repeated destruction of equipment belonging to pro-Iran armed factions after Shiite commanders claimed that most attacks were carried out by drones, Iraqi security officials told Arab News.
The Falcon Camp explosion was the 16th of its kind in less than three years in the country. Most of the bombings have targeted weapons depots belonging to Iranian-backed armed factions and were mysteriously targeted, security officials said.
Initial investigations by Iraqi military authorities to determine the reasons behind the camp bombing suggest that it was carried out “deliberately” by an “external act.”
Commanders of Kataib Sayaad Al-Shuhadaa and other Shiite armed factions insist that “it was an unidentified armed drone that hit the first store with a mortar shell, which led to the explosion of ammunition.
“We believe that the US and Israel were behind these explosions,” a Shiite commander told Arab News.
“Both of them have threatened to target and destroy the weapons of the armed factions. We have proof of the presence of drones in these areas (where the explosions happened), but the government refuses to take any official position.”