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Hashd al-Shaabi militia bombed in northern Iraq

An unidentified drone bombed part of a base belonging to a Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) militia in northern Iraq early on Friday, July 19, killing at least one person, according to the Iraqi military and media reports.

An unmanned aerial vehicle dropped a grenade on a base belonging to the militia in Salahuddin province, the Iraqi military said in a statement.

One of the explosives landed on an ammunition depot, Reuters reported an Iraqi security source as saying.

At least one person was killed, the report said.

Earlier on Friday, Al Arabiya reported that the Iran-backed militia was targeted in Amerli, in the Tuz Khurmatu district of Salahuddin. The Saudi news channel said a number of Hezbollah fighters and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members were killed.

A video posted on social media appeared to show a large fire at the base.

It was unclear who was behind the attack. The U.S. Department of Defense and Central Command, which is responsible for operations in the region outside of the scope of the war against Islamic State, have both denied that U.S. forces were involved.

Islamic State has long had the capability to drop small bombs from commercial drones, but the group did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility for the bombing.

Pockets of ISIS fighters remain around Salahaddin province. On July 7, the Iraqi military launched an operation against ISIS sleeper cells in Salahaddin, Nineveh and Anbar provinces.

In April, Iraqi counter-terrorism forces and the Coalition against ISIS attacked sleeper cells in the nearby Hamrin mountains, the largest combined operation since the capture of Baghuz a month earlier.

Integrating the Hashd al-Shaabi

Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi issued a decree ordering the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi to integrate into the Iraqi armed forces or fully disarm.

The PMUs nominally fall under Mahdi’s authority as the general commander of Iraq’s armed forces since former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally folded them into the regular military in May 2018. Baghdad then granted their fighters salaries equal to those of the Iraqi Army later that year.

The interior ministry has struggled to disrupt the militias’ activities, as the PMUs have largely insulated themselves from the government’s authority by taking control of local energy industries, smuggling routes and real estate markets, giving them a degree of political cover.

The PMUs links to Iran have made them unpopular with the Trump administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for them to disband as late as last year.

In May, Pompeo made a last-minute trip to Baghdad on May 7, saying the U.S. had intelligence of “specific threats” from Iranian activity to American personnel and interests in Iraq.

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