Drone targets base for Iran-backed militia in northern Iraq

National News

BAGHDAD (AP) — An unmanned drone dropped explosives on a base belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary forces in northern Iraq early Friday, wounding two people, Iraqi security officials and a military statement said, amid regional tensions between the United States and Iran.

The statement said the drone dropped two grenades half an hour apart on the base in Amirli, in Iraq’s northern Salaheddin province. No further details were provided.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which struck shortly after midnight. The Iranian-backed mostly Shiite Muslim militias, in a statement, blamed the Islamic State group, saying it confronted the attack without providing details.

A senior official with the militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces told The Associated Press that the attack resulted in the wounding of two Iranians and that the base hit housed advisers from Iran and Lebanon. He said the first attack targeted the headquarters of the advisers, resulting in the wounding of the two Iranians.

The second attack hit a weapons depot, causing a large fire at the base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose sensitive information.

An Iraqi official said IS militants were most likely behind the attack, ruling out a U.S.-led coalition or American attack. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

A Pentagon spokesman denied U.S. involvement.

“We are aware of open source reports of possible aggressive actions against a Popular Mobilization Force unit in Salah ad Din. U.S. forces were not involved. We have no further information about this report,” Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson said.

Tensions between Iran and the U.S. have left Iraq’s government, which is allied with both sides, in a delicate position.

Iraq is home to U.S. bases and more than 5,000 U.S. troops, as well as dozens of Iran-supported militias who fought against IS militants alongside Iraqi government troops.

Baghdad declared victory over IS in December 2017, after the last urban battle had been won following years-long battles that left its cities in ruins. But the group, which has used drones in its attacks in the past, is still waging a low-level insurgency particularly in rural areas.

___

Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Boston and Robert Burns in Washington contributed reporting.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.