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Iraq Shia militia chief retracts accusation US, Israel behind base attacks

The Hashed have received Iranian training and advice [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 August, 2019

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The head of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force has walked back his deputy's accusation that the US and Israel were behind a string of recent explosions at the group's bases.

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Iraq, US, Israel.

The head of Iraq's Popular Mobilsation Forces has walked back his deputy's accusation that the United States and Israel were behind a string of recent explosions at the group's bases.

Faleh al-Fayyadh said investigators had yet to determine who was behind the past month's blasts at four training camps and arms depots used by the paramilitary group, which is mainly composed of pro-Iranian militias.

Fayyadh, who also serves as the government's national security adviser, issued the statement after an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi late on Wednesday.

"Preliminary investigations" found the incidents were "an external, premeditated act," he said.

"The investigations will continue until the responsible entities are accurately identified to be able to take the appropriate stances."

Just hours earlier, the PMF's deputy commander Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, whose virulent anti-Americanism as a militia leader earned him a US terror blacklisting, had been unequivocal in blaming Washington and Israeli drones.

"We announce that the first and last entity responsible for what happened are American forces, and we will hold them responsible for whatever happens from today onwards," Muhandis said.

He said the attacks were carried out by "agents or in special operations with modern airplanes," without providing further details.

Fayyadh distanced himself from his deputy's statement, saying it "does not represent the Hashed's official position," referring to the paramilitary group by its Arabic name, Hashed al-Shaabi.

The Hashed, which, with Iranian training and advice, played a key role in the fight against the Islamic State group independently of the US-led coalition, is largely made up of Shia armed groups.

Analysts say the divergent statements from its top commanders could reflect a wider rift within the alliance.

The Pentagon on Wednesday denied any involvement in the explosions.

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