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.


Libya’s navy intercepts about 150 Europe-bound migrants

Updated 19 October 2019

Libya’s navy intercepts about 150 Europe-bound migrants

  • Three rubber boats with 148 Arab and African migrants were stopped off Libya’s western towns of Zuwara and Sabrata
  • Libya has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe

CAIRO: Libya’s coast guard says it has intercepted around 150 Europe-bound migrants off the country’s Mediterranean coast.
Spokesman Ayoub Gassim said Saturday the migrants had been returned to shore and would be taken to a detention center in the capital, Tripoli.
Gassim said the three rubber boats with 148 Arab and African migrants were stopped off Libya’s western towns of Zuwara and Sabrata Friday, and included 15 women and 11 children.
Libya has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty to Europe. In recent years, the EU has partnered with Libya’s coast guard and other local groups to stem the dangerous sea crossings.
Rights groups, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuses.