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Sunday , February 23 2020

Iran-backed forces blame US for Iraq bases attacks

FILE – In this Monday, Aug. 12, 2019 file photo, plumes of smoke rise after an explosion at a military base southwest of Baghdad, Iraq. A fact-finding committee appointed by the Iraqi government to investigate a massive munitions depot explosion near the capital Baghdad has concluded that the blast was the result of a drone strike. A copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Loay Hameed, File)

BAGHDAD, Aug 21, (AP): Iraqi paramilitary forces backed by Iran said Wednesday they hold the United States ultimately responsible for a series of attacks targeting their bases in the country, pledging to defend themselves against any future attack.

The rare statement issued by the state-sanctioned militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, said the group has accurate information that shows the US brought in four Israeli drones this year to work as part of the US fleet in Iraq and target militia positions in Iraq. “We announce that the United States is ultimately responsible for what happened and we will hold it responsible for what will happen as of today.

We have no choice but to defend ourselves and our bases with the weapons at our disposal,” said the statement, which was signed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the PMF. The statement came as an Iraqi government report obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday said a massive explosion at a munitions depot run by an Iranian-backed militia near Baghdad last week was caused by a drone strike.

The report outlined the conclusions of a fact-finding committee ordered by the government to investigate the Aug 12 explosion at the al-Saqr military base. It said the blast was caused by a drone strike that sparked a huge fire and ruled out earlier suggestions that it was caused by an electrical short circuit or faulty storage of munitions that allowed them to overheat in sweltering summer temperatures.

The blast at the al-Saqr, or “Falcon,” base killed one civilian, wounded 28 and damaged nearby homes, echoing across Baghdad. The base houses a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the mainly Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

The state-sanctioned militias, most of which receive backing from Iran, have fought alongside Iraq’s regular armed forces against the Islamic State group. The report did not say who the drone belonged to. Al-Saqr was among a string of explosions that hit militia bases and munitions depots over the past several weeks.

The deadliest, a July 19 blast, was blamed on a drone that hit a base in Amirli, northern Iraq, killing two Iranians and causing a huge fire. The most recent explosion came on Tuesday night, at a base north of Baghdad.

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