https://diyaruna.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_di/features/2019/06/21/feature-02?di_exp_001=true

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Terrorism |

Iran-backed groups behind rocket attacks in Iraq: expert

By Fares al-Omran

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Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia elements during a rally in Baghdad on May 31st, 2019. [Photo posted on Asaib Ahl al-Haq website]

An Iraqi military expert accused Iran-backed armed groups of being behind a spate of recent attacks against sites that are home to international missions and interests in Iraq.

On May 19th, a Katyusha rocket was fired into Baghdad's Green Zone -- home to government offices and embassies, including the US mission -- days after the US evacuated staff from Iraq, citing threats from Iran.

On Wednesday (June 19th) at dawn, "a Katyusha rocket fell on an Iraqi drilling company in the Burjesiya area near Basra", wounding three Iraqis, the military command said in a statement.

Burjesiya is a complex near southern Iraq's main city, in a key oil-producing region hosting various Iraqi and foreign companies including US major Exxon Mobil.

Hours before the Burjesiya incident, the Iraqi military announced that an improvised rocket had hit the presidential palaces complex in the city of Mosul, where American troops are reportedly deployed.

And on Monday evening, three Katyusha rockets hit the Taji army base, which hosts both Iraqi and foreign troops, including Americans.

Last Friday evening, three mortar rounds hit the Balad airbase north of Baghdad, starting a fire and leaving three Iraqis wounded.

Most of the attacks used Katyusha rockets launched from "short distances of between three to four kilometres", military and strategic expert Muayyed Salem al-Juhaishi told Diyaruna on Friday (June 21st).

The rocket that hit the presidential palaces complex in Mosul was the exception, he said, noting that it was launched "from more than six kilometres away, from the far west of Mosul to its far east where the complex is located".

"The rocket had been modified to become a 122mm calibre projectile," he added.

Militias 'do not care about Iraqis'

The rockets were fired from launchers made or restored by militias loyal to Iran, he said, adding that those platforms have previously been used by those militias in the fight against the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

The militia elements "deliberately left the rocket launchers at the attack sites and did not remove them, in order to assert their responsibility" for the attacks and to deliver a message to the authorities that they are able to do more, he said.

The Wednesday attack came a day after the Iraqi government banned the activity of any Iraqi or non-Iraqi armed force that does not report to the state.

Al-Juhaishi pointed the finger at the Iran-backed Kataeb Hizbullah militia in particular for being behind the attacks.

The Iran-backed militias are also responsible for a mid-June attack with a Katyusha rocket that fell near the residence of Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi in the al-Jadiriya neighbourhood in central Baghdad without causing any injuries, he added.

"Day after day, these militias prove that they do not care about the lives and interests of the Iraqi people," he said, "and that their first and last affiliation is with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC]."

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