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US military helicopters conduct overflights of Iraqi PMU positions

In this file picture, a member of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units – better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, flashes a "V" sign in the northern town of Hatra. (Photo by AFP)

US military helicopters have flown over the positions of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, in the country’s western province of Anbar, hours after US military bombed facilities belonging to the anti-terror resistance groups on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

An Iraqi security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aircraft flew over the facilities of Hashd al-Sha’abi in the southern outskirts of Fallujah, located roughly 69 km west of Baghdad, covering an area spanning from Amiriyat al-Samoud area to Jurf al-Nasr region.

The source described the developments as suspicious, noting that Hashd al-Sha’abi forces are exercising special security measures in the wake of the overflights.

Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby told reporters that US President Joe Biden authorized strikes on Thursday, allegedly destroying multiple facilities at a border control point used by Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters, including members of Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada groups.

Kirby claimed that the strikes were in response to recent attacks against American and allied personnel in Iraq. 

On March 27 last year, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon had ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of Hashd al-Sha’abi.

But the United States’ top commander in Iraq at the time, Lieutenant General Robert P. White, warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive.

Hashd al-Sh’abai fighters have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas in Iraq, ever since the foreign-backed terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.

Back in November 2016, the Iraqi parliament approved a law giving full legal status to the fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the forces under the command of the prime minister, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.

Russia condemns US airstrikes 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday Moscow condemns the US attacks on the Syrian-Iraqi border, and calls on Washington to respect the sovereignty of Syria.

“We strongly condemn such actions, and we call for unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria. We affirm our rejection of any attempts to turn the Syrian territories into an arena for geopolitical settlement of accounts,” Zakharova said in a statement.

First Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Russian Federation Council, Vladimir Dzhabarov, also condemned US airstrikes as “illegal and an attack on the territory of a sovereign state.”

Dzhabarov warned that such attacks could lead to an escalation of the situation in the entire region.

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