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US Military Investigating Claim of Iraq-Kuwait Border Blast

US Military Investigating Claim of Iraq-Kuwait Border Blast

Tuesday, 11 August, 2020 - 05:15
A convoy of US vehicles is seen near the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. (Reuters file photo)

The US military said Tuesday it was investigating a militant claim by a newly formed Iraqi militant group of a bombing at the Iraq-Kuwait border.

A group, called Ashab al-Kahf, issued a statement overnight claiming it destroyed “equipment and vehicles belonging to the American enemy” in a bombing targeting a border crossing south of the Iraqi city of Basra.

The group later published an 11-second video clip it claimed showed the blast, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant groups.

The out-of-focus video shows what appeared to be an explosion and lights in the distance, with a man speaking in Arabic. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the video.

US Army Maj. John Rigsbee, a Central Command spokesman, said the American military was looking into reports of the explosion.

The Iraqi military issued a statement early Tuesday through the state-run Iraqi News Agency, denying an attack took place.

The Kuwaiti military in statement carried by the state-run KUNA news agency similarly said it “denied reports about a sabotage attack on a northern border post.” The statement did not elaborate.

Vehicles are regularly loaded with military equipment at the Jraischan crossing, three Iraqi security forces told Reuters, and the cargo is usually loaded or unloaded before entering or exiting Iraq.

Foreign companies are contracted by US forces to provide security in the area, the Iraqi security sources said.

Kuwait hosts some 13,500 American troops, many at Camp Arifjan south of Kuwait City, which is also home to the forward command of US Army Central.

American troops and contractors sometimes travel by road with equipment and supplies between the two countries.

Ashab al-Kahf means “Companions of the Cave” in Arabic, referring to a Christian and Islamic story about youths escaping religious persecution hiding in a cave for hundreds of years.

The group has emerged alongside renewed threats by pro-Iran militias amid rising tensions between the Washington and Tehran. In January, an American drone strike killed top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad. Tehran responded with a ballistic missile attack that wounded dozens of American troops at a military base in Iraq.

The SITE Intelligence Group has referred to Ashab al-Kahf as “reportedly an Iranian proxy unit.” The group initially threatened US forces in April and claimed an attack on a convoy in July.

Later on Tuesday, the Iraqi military announced that a blast from a planted explosive device hit a convoy of the US-led coalition near the Taji base north of Baghdad.

The explosion caused a fire to a container on one of the vehicles but the military did not report any casualties. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

Shift in tactics

It appears that pro-Iran armed factions in Iraq that are opposed to American presence have started to adopt a new strategy aimed at serving Tehran’s interests and forcing the United States and its allies in the anti-ISIS coalition to pull out of the country.

These factions had often targeted the American embassy in Baghdad and some training camps and bases throughout the country. But these tactics changed in recent weeks and are now shifting towards attacking civilian and non-civilian supply convoys that arrive through Iraq’s southern land and naval crossings.

Security forces announced on Sunday that an explosive had targeted a civilian convoy that was transporting gear to the anti-ISIS coalition as it was traveling in the Dhi Qar province. The attack only caused minor damage to one of the vehicle’s tires.

Security forces in the province had stressed that they will tighten security measures to prevent any attack in the region after they discovered a booby-trapped vehicle in Nasiriyah city on Friday.

Local observers said the vehicle was set up to attack coalition convoys, not the city. A pro-Iran faction was accused of preparing the explosive.

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