Explosion hits arms depot for Iran-backed faction in Iraq

The explosions hit a depot belonging to an Iran-backed armed faction near Iraq's Balad air base. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 21 August 2019

Explosion hits arms depot for Iran-backed faction in Iraq

  • Tuesday's blast is the latest in a series of mysterious explosions at military bases and munitions depots around the country
  • Blast hit near Balad air base in Salaheddin province sending smoke billowing from the area

BAGHDAD: A large explosion hit an arms depot belonging to an Iranian-backed militia faction north of Baghdad on Tuesday, the latest in a series of mysterious blasts at military bases and munitions depots around the country in the past few weeks.
The explosions have occurred in bases and warehouses belonging to militia groups under the umbrella of the mainly Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. The state-sanctioned PMF militias have fought alongside Iraq's regular armed forces against Daesh.
Last week, a massive explosion at a munitions depot southwest of Baghdad killed one civilian and wounded 13 others. The exact cause for the blast, which terrified residents and damaged nearby homes, is still unknown although some officials blamed it on faulty storage.
Last month, an explosion took place at a base in Amirli, in Iraq's northern Salaheddin province, killing two Iranians and causing a huge fire. That attack was blamed on an unmanned drone that dropped explosives, with some Shiite militias blaming it on Daesh.
In response to the explosions, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi last week banned unauthorized flights throughout the country and ordered all military camps and munitions warehouses to be moved outside Iraqi cities. He ordered an urgent investigation into the explosions, whose results he said should be concluded within a week.
No one has claimed responsibility for those explosions or Tuesday's blast near the Balad air base in Salaheddin province, which sent smoke billowing from the area.
They said the blast occurred in a depot belonging to the PMF and that an investigation was underway.
The Iraqi Civil Defense said in a statement that the blast occurred near Balad air base, one of the country's largest, which is home to US trainers and is about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad. It said its members were trying to control a fire caused by the blast.
A Shiite militia group is stationed nearby.
The mysterious blasts have given rise to a host of theories, including that Israel may have conducted an airstrike.
Israel has struck Iranian bases in neighboring Syria on numerous occasions, and there has been speculation that it might be expanding its campaign to target Iranian bases to include Iraq.
However, neither the Iraqi government nor Israel have addressed the reports.


Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

Updated 22 September 2020

Archaeologists unearth 27 coffins buried 2,500 years ago in Egyptian tomb

  • Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region

CAIRO: Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered 27 coffins that were buried more than 2,500 years ago in a pharaonic cemetery.

The sarcophagi were found at the Saqqara site in the governorate of Giza, south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Egyptian antiquities officials believe the discovery to be the largest of its kind in the region. Saqqara was an active burial ground for more than 3,000 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Initial studies indicate that the coffins and shrouds inside have remained tightly sealed since burial, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

The discovery was part of an Egyptian dig in the Saqqara area which unearthed an 11-meter-deep well containing colorfully painted wooden coffins stacked on top of each other along with other smaller artefacts.

Khaled Al-Anani, the Egyptian minister of antiquities, postponed announcing the discovery until he could visit the site himself, where he thanked teams for working in difficult conditions.

Ahmed Abdel Aziz, a professor of pharaonic archeology at a private university, said: “This new discovery is not the first in the Saqqara archaeological area. Archaeological discoveries have increased over the past years which draw attention to this region.

“This prompted many archaeological missions from many countries to work in this region, trying to probe the depths of this region and the treasures hidden inside it.”

Al-Anani said the increase in archaeological discoveries and the number of projects recently implemented by the Ministry of Antiquities were down to political will and exceptional support from the Egyptian government.

He pointed out the importance of resuming the work of 300 archaeological missions from 25 countries after a hiatus of a number of years, including some working in Egypt for the first time such as the joint Egyptian Chinese archaeological mission.

There were about 50 Egyptian missions working at sites in governorates throughout the country and Al-Anani praised their efforts in helping to unearth more evidence of ancient Egyptian civilization.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities, said that Saqqara was one of the most promising historical areas when it came to archaeological discoveries, adding that he planned to continue working in the area with his mission members to uncover more secrets and treasures of the past.

He noted that new finds during the current excavation season would have a positive impact on tourism in Egypt at locations such as Giza, Saqqara, Luxor, and Aswan.

Mohamed Abdel Hamid, vice president of the Egyptian Association for Tourism and Archaeological Development, said that the discovery was a testament to the architectural development of the area that could be seen in King Djoser’s collection. The pharaoh was found in a step pyramid which was the first tomb in Egypt to be built using stones.