The US armed forces are investigating a claim by a newly-formed Iraqi Shia militia that it was responsible for a bombing at the border of Iraq and Kuwait. The incident has been denied by the Iraqis and Kuwaitis.
The minor and little-known militia Ashab Al-Kahf made the claim last night, saying that it had conducted the bombing at the border crossing to the south of the Iraqi port of Basra. It claims to have destroyed “equipment and vehicles belonging to the American enemy.”
The militia issued a short video clip showing the alleged explosion with an Arabic commentary. A spokesman for US Central Command, Major John Rigsbee, said that the army is looking into reports of the blast.
According to the Iraqi army, the video is faked and intended to “mislead public opinion.” The Kuwaitis also released a statement on the state-run KUNA news agency denying the reports of “a sabotage attack on a northern border post.”
Ever since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the toppling of long-time dictator Saddam Hussein, US military officials and contractors often drive along the border between Iraq and Kuwait, particularly to transport equipment and supplies.
The alleged attack by Ashab Al-Kahf, reported to be an Iran-backed proxy militia, comes amid renewed tensions between the US and Iran and the regional Shia militias it supports. The same militia also threatened US forces in April before claiming an attack on a military convoy in the Iraqi province of Salahuddin last month.
The Iran-backed Shia militias within Iraq which operate under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) are controversial for their involvement in the state’s political and military institutions. Usually operating alongside the Iraqi security services, their influence is apparently going to be curbed by the government of recently-appointed Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. He is particularly concerned about militias firing on protesters during demonstrations.
In June, government forces conducted a raid on the headquarters of one of the most prominent militias, Kataeb Hezbollah, arresting several of its members, leading to the group the group threatening Al-Kadhimi.