News   /   Iraq

Explosions hit Hashd al-Sha’abi position north of Iraqi capital

This black smoke is seen rising in the sky following several blasts at a position of Iraqi pro-government of pro-government Popular Mobilization Units, better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha'abi, near Balad air base north of Baghdad, Iraq, on August 20, 2019. (Photo via Twitter)

Several powerful explosions have rocked a position held by Iraqi pro-government Popular Mobilization Units, better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, near a strategic air base north of the capital Baghdad.

The Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate announced in a statement that an ammunition warehouse belonging to the volunteer fighters exploded next to Balad air base, which hosts US forces and contractors and is located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, on Tuesday evening.

The statement added that “our teams are trying to bring the situation under control.”

An unnamed security source said thick plumes of black smoke are seen billowing from the site, adding that the circumstances surrounding the incident remain unknown.

However, Fadhil Abu Ragheef, a security expert close to Iraqi intelligence services, said the arms depot of Hashd al-Sha’abi forces had been specifically targeted.

He added that the blast was followed by a series of explosions at the warehouse that sent a large amount of shrapnel nearby.

Hashd al-Sha’abi commanders also confirmed that the intended target of the blasts was the group’s position near Balad base.

Mohammad al-Baldawi, a representative of al-Bina party at the Iraqi parliament, stated that the incident is in line with repeated attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi positions.

On August 13, Abu Ragheef had told Russia's RT Arabic television news network that there is information that the Israeli military was planning to launch airstrikes against the arms depots of Hashd al-Sha’abi forces.

“Available information suggests that Israel is preparing to bomb the weapons caches of Hashd al-Sha’abi forces, and not the command centers or fortifications of the fighters. This is quite likely to happen,” he said.

He added that a powerful explosion, which rocked a military base in southern Baghdad on August 12, could be part of the Israeli scenario. Sayf al-Badr, spokesman of the Iraqi Health Ministry, said in a statement that at least one person was killed and 29 others were wounded in the blast.

In January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted during a visit to Iraq that the Israeli regime could launch attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi forces, who played a key role in the Iraqi army’s counter-terrorism battles against the Daesh terror group and helped the government to rid the country of the Takfiri outfit in late 2017.

Pompeo was reported to have made it clear to Iraqi officials at a meeting with the Iraqi prime minister that Washington would not react to possible Israeli attacks against Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters.

Abdul-Mahdi expressed concern about the statement and warned Pompeo that such actions by Israel would have grave consequences, Russia’s RT Arabic television news network reported back then.

Reacting to the reports, Moein al-Kazemi, a Hashd al-Sha’abi commander, said the force was ready to deliver a “strong” response to any aggression, advising the regime in Tel Aviv not to “play with fire.”

The Israeli regime has a record of attacking the forces fighting Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.

In June 2018, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters came under attack in Syria’s border town of al-Hari, in the eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr, as they were chasing Daesh terrorists out of the area.

Both the Syrian government and Hashd al-Sha’abi declared back then that the attack near the Iraqi-Syrian border had been deliberate and could only have been carried out by either Israel or the United States.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku