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.


Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

Updated 04 July 2020

Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

  • Allegations have been widely circulating on social media detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man
  • Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Saturday arrested a man who allegedly sexually abused dozens of girls and women, in a case that has sparked outrage online, a security source said.
Allegations have been widely circulating on social media since Wednesday detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man.
One allegation claimed that he attempted to abuse a 14-year-old girl.
“The person accused of harassing the girls has been arrested and will be facing the prosecution following the allegations carried on social media,” the security source said.
“Those affected should submit formal reports of the harm they endured,” the source added.
The source did not identify the suspect.
According to the social media reports, the first of which was published on an Instagram account, the abuse had been going on since at least 2018.
Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action.
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) lodged an official complaint with the public prosecutor to investigate the allegations on Saturday.
“The NCW has followed the social media account on Instagram, which was launched by girls and women complaining that a man raped some of them and sexually assaulted and harassed others,” it said on Facebook.
It also said that several victims, who reached out to the council, recounted that the man “blackmailed and threatened to defame them using photos and clips documenting his heinous crimes.”
The council urged the women to submit official complaints to the prosecutor.
Some online reports suggested the perpetrator was a university student.
The American University in Cairo acknowledged the suspect had studied there but said he left the university in 2018.
He “is not a current student at the American University in Cairo,” a statement said.
Sexual harassment is highly prevalent in Egypt.
United Nations surveys have found that most Egyptian women have been subject to harassment, ranging from catcalling to pinching and groping.
Egyptian authorities have criminalized sexual harassment since 2014, but many women complain that the problem remains rampant.