Iraq detains suspect in deadly bombing that killed 12

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi
Updated 21 September 2019

Iraq detains suspect in deadly bombing that killed 12

  • The blast was one of the biggest attacks targeting civilians since the extremist Daesh group was declared defeated inside Iraq in 2017

BAGHDAD: Iraqi security forces boosted their presence and measures around the Shiite city of Karbala on Saturday, a day after a deadly bombing hit a minibus packed with passengers outside the city. 

“Twelve civilians have been killed and five wounded in an explosion on a bus at the main checkpoint for the northern entrance to Karbala,” the city’s health authorities said, adding the victims included women and children. Iraq’s prime minister said security forces have detained a man suspected of detonating the bomb.

The blast was one of the biggest attacks targeting civilians since the extremist Daesh group was declared defeated inside Iraq in 2017. 

The group’s sleeper cells continue to wage an insurgency and carry out sporadic attacks across the country.

The charred minibus was still on the road near the city on Saturday morning, hours after the blast killed 12 people and wounded five others.

At least two police spokesmen in the area said an explosive device planted on the bus detonated at a northern entrance to the city, setting fire to the vehicle.

According to the officials, the blast occurred as the bus was passing through an Iraqi army checkpoint between Karbala and Al-Hilla.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in a statement released by his office on Saturday gave no further details about the suspect.

Parliament Speaker Mohamad Al-Halbousi expressed in a statement his frustration with the repeated “failures of intelligence agencies” to prevent such attacks. He added that security plans should be reviewed and intelligence gathering intensified.

On Saturday, security was tight on the roads entering Karbala with added checkpoints searching cars.

The explosion occurred as the bus was passing through an Iraqi army checkpoint, about 10 km south of Karbala in the direction of the town of Al-Hilla.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place during a holy period marked by Shiites in Iraq between two important religious events, Ashoura and Arbaeen. 

Daesh insurgents have continued to carry out regular attacks mostly against security forces in the north of the country, however.

Arbaeen is the annual commemoration marking the end of the 40-day mourning period for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a central figure in Shiite Islam. Imam Hussein was one of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandsons.

Thirty-one pilgrims were killed and about 100 injured 10 days ago as hundreds of thousands of Shiites marked Ashoura, one of the most solemn holy days of the year. 

It was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashoura commemorations.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 55 min 9 sec ago

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.