Terrorism

Rocket attack targets military camp near Baghdad

By Faris al-Omran

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An advisor with the US coalition on January 22nd, 2018, oversees the training of Iraqi soldiers at Taji base, north of Baghdad. [Photo courtesy of the Iraq Ministry of Defence]

Three Katyusha rockets landed in the Taji base north of Baghdad Monday night (July 27th), followed shortly by two explosions at a military camp in Salaheddine province.

Both military sites house US coalition forces.

The first rocket targeting Taji base landed on the Iraqi air force's 15th Squadron, causing "major" material damage to an army warplane, the Ministry of Defence said.

The second rocket fell on the artillery and weapons factory, also causing material damage, while the third landed without exploding on the air force's 2nd Squadron.

The statement, which did not mention any casualties, said the rockets were launched from the area of Sabe al-Bour near the Taji base.

Security forces "will continue to work to track down those involved in these attacks and bring them to justice", it said.

The Monday attack is the latest in a string of rocket attacks targeting foreign interests in Iraq that many have blamed on Iran-backed militias operating in the country.

A few hours after the attack on Taji base, two explosions occurred at the Martyr Majid al-Tamimi (formerly Camp Speicher) air force base in Salaheddine province, which hosts US troops.

Civil defence teams put down the fire that resulted from the explosions, which did not result in any human casualties, according to the Ministry of Defence.

On Friday, four Katyusha rockets hit the Basmaya military base, south of Baghdad, causing damage to an armour depot and the headquarters of a protection regiment, without causing human losses.

The attack on the base came one day before it was handed over to the Iraqi army, based on a timetable between the Iraqi government and the international coalition.

Basmaya is the seventh military base to be handed over by the coalition since March 17th.

'Violation of Iraqi sovereignty'

These attacks are a "major security challenge and the government must put an end to them", security expert Majid al-Qaisi told Diyaruna.

The militias' transgressions against Iraqi laws "cannot be overlooked", he said, and "bold decisions must be taken to tackle them, preserve public order, and protect citizens' lives and property".

The security of foreign military and diplomatic missions "is the responsibility of the [Iraqi] government according to the law", he said.

Threatening these installations represents "a violation of national sovereignty and damages Iraq's interests", al-Qaisi noted.

Iraqi militias serve as "local tools" for the Iranian regime which seeks to harm Iraq politically and economically by isolating it from the international community, he said.

They want to turn Iraq into a theater for conflict, driving away foreign investment, he added.

The repeated attacks on US interests in Iraq place increasing pressure on Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi, who is preparing to visit the US soon to hold a new round of high-level talks about the strategic partnership between both countries, said al-Qaisi.

The government has the ability to put an end to the armed militias' activities, he said, as there is "strong popular support for any move in this regard".

Protests reignited

Meanwhile, an Iraqi protestor died Tuesday after being shot with a tear gas canister in overnight skirmishes with police in the capital, medical and security sources told AFP.

The clashes came just hours after Kadhemi instructed security forces not to "fire a single bullet" at demonstrators, following the deaths of two other protestors Monday morning in Baghdad.

But by Monday evening, the confrontations in the capital's main anti-government protest camp of Tahrir Square had started anew.

Kadhemi gave a rare televised address on Monday evening, saying Iraqis have "a legitimate right" to protest.

"Security forces are not permitted to fire a single bullet against our brothers, the demonstrators," Kadhemi warned.

"We have opened an investigation into all that happened yesterday in Tahrir Square, and I asked the results to be in front of me within 72 hours," he said.

The protests began Sunday night in Baghdad and several southern cities, expressing fury at poor public services as temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius have swelled demand for air-conditioning and overwhelmed dilapidated power grids.

The deaths threaten to reignite an unprecedented protest movement against government graft and incompetence that erupted across Baghdad and southern Iraq in October.

Iraqi protestors also denounced Iran's influence in their country and the presence of Iraqi militias sponsored by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

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