Iraq: Cause of PMU Explosions Under Dispute

  • A senior official in the local Anbar government confirmed earlier on Tuesday that the explosion resulted from a drone strike, according to Al Sumaria television.
  • The official disputed claims from Iraqi Major General Qasim Al-Mohammadi that the fire and explosion were caused by electrical contact.
  • Several stores of the Popular Mobilization Forces have been hit in the past weeks with mysterious strikes.

Iraqi Major General Qasim Al-Mohammadi, head of the al-Jazeera operations command in the western province of Anbar, denied Tuesday that a weapons store belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, which exploded on Monday, was targeted by air strikes or drones. He explained that the fire and explosion were caused by electrical contact. The explosion occurred in al-Mamoura, west of Anbar.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, also known as the People’s Mobilization Committee (PMC), the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and al-Hashd ash-Sha’abi, is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40 militias that are mostly Shia Muslim groups, but also Sunni Muslim, Christian, and Yazidi. The popular mobilization units have fought in nearly every major battle against Daesh, and have been described as the new Republican Guard.

The first photos of the site showed that the roof of the warehouse remained intact, while the explosion and volatility of some Katyusha rockets led to the demolition of the side of the wall of the warehouse, which included weapons for the group. A senior official in the local Anbar government confirmed earlier on Tuesday that the explosion resulted from a drone strike, according to Al Sumaria television.

He also explained that “the news about the the burning of the tribal crowd in the district of Maamoura, in Hit District, was caused by an electrical contact, that statement was inaccurate.” He added that “the nature of the explosion was caused by a drone which fired a missile towards the denominator.”

It is noteworthy that several stores of the Popular Mobilization Forces have been hit in the past weeks with mysterious strikes. While the government merely opened an investigation, a number of Hashd leaders accused Israel and the United States of involvement in the attacks.

Previous explosions

On August 20, an explosion occurred in an equipment warehouse owned by Iraqi Hezbollah militia, a Popular Mobilization faction, at Balad Air Base in Salah al-Din governorate. While the Pentagon later denied any US role in the bombings, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, deputy head of the PMU, blamed the United States and Israel, threatening to retaliate for the alleged attack.

However, the head of the rally, Faleh al-Fayyad, later denied the statements made by the engineer, stressing that they do not represent the official position of the Popular Mobilization. Also in July, a camp of the Popular Mobilization militia east of Salah al-Din province was bombed by two “unknown” strikes, killing both Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (“League of the Righteous”), also known as the Khazali Network, is an Iraqi Shi’a paramilitary group active in the Iraqi insurgency and Syrian Civil War. During the Iraq War it was known as Iraq’s largest “Special Group” (the Americans’ term for Iran-backed Shia paramilitaries in Iraq), and claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks on American and Coalition forces. The group is currently fighting Daesh as part of the Popular Moblization Forces.

Syrian Albokamal raids

On Monday, members of the Hashd were also attacked by unknown air strikes in the Syrian city of Albu Kamal. No official reference from the crowd spoke on the subject. Al-Ahad TV, owned by Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, led by Qais Khazali, quoted a source in the local Anbar government in the west of the country  saying that “unidentified drones bombed Al-Abdal positions near the Iraqi-Syrian border.”

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, unidentified aircraft killed 18 members of the Iranian militias and their forces in the Albukamal area midnight Sunday. News sources reported the sound of three explosions in the Syrian Albu Kamal area adjacent to the Iraqi Qaim district. The sources explained that the explosions were heard in the headquarters of the militias belonging to the Popular Mobilization, including the headquarters of the militias of the al-Abdal, Haidarion and Iraqi Hezbollah inside Syrian territory, and resulted in deaths and injuries.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.


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