Pentagon chief urges Iraq to stop attacks on bases housing US forces

Rocket strikes targeting Iraqi bases where members of the US-led coalition are also stationed have increased in past weeks with no claim of responsibility from any party. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2019

Pentagon chief urges Iraq to stop attacks on bases housing US forces

  • A US military official warned last week that attacks by Iranian-backed groups on bases hosting US forces in Iraq were pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation
  • Tension between the United States and Iran has risen as a result of US sanctions that are hitting Tehran hard

BAGHDAD: US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday urged Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to take steps to prevent bases housing US troops from being shelled, a statement from the premier’s office said.

Esper’s call came after a senior US military official warned last week that attacks by Iranian-backed groups on bases hosting US forces in Iraq were pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation.

Rocket strikes targeting Iraqi bases where members of the US-led coalition are also stationed have increased in past weeks with no claim of responsibility from any party.

However, the US military official said intelligence and forensic analyzes of the rockets and launchers pointed to Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militia groups.

Esper “expressed his concerns over the shelling of some installations and the necessity to take procedures to stop it,” a statement from Abdul Mahdi’s office quoted the Pentagon chief as saying during a phone call.

Abdul Mahdi warned Esper that unilateral action could have negative consequences that will be difficult to control and might jeopardize Iraq’s sovereignty.

Abdul Mahdi resigned last month under pressure from mass anti-government protests. He is carrying out his duties in a caretaker capacity.

Tension between the United States and Iran has risen as a result of US sanctions that are hitting Tehran hard. The two sides have also traded blame over attacks on oil installations, militia arms depots and bases hosting US forces.


Jordanian charged with ‘terror’ over tourist stabbings

Updated 26 min 58 sec ago

Jordanian charged with ‘terror’ over tourist stabbings

  • The suspect, Moustafa Abourouis, 22, faces up to 20 years in prison
  • Prosecutors accused Abourouis of committing a “terrorist act” and “promoting the ideas of a terrorist group”

AMMAN: A Jordanian court on Sunday levelled “terrorism” charges against a man suspected of wounding eight people in a November knife attack at a popular tourist site.
The suspect, Moustafa Abourouis, 22, faces up to 20 years in prison after the stabbing of three Mexicans, a Swiss woman, a Jordanian tour guide and a security officer at the Roman city of Jerash.
At a hearing open to the press, prosecutors accused Abourouis of committing a “terrorist act” and “promoting the ideas of a terrorist group” — a reference to the Daesh group.
Abourouis, who is of Palestinian origins and grew up in the refugee camp of Souf, was arrested immediately after the attack at Jerash, close to the camp and around 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Amman.
The Jordanian prosecutor accused Abourouis of trying to join Daesh, an operative of which in Syria had “ordered him to commit attacks against foreigners.”
Two alleged accomplices, also Jordanians of Palestinian origin, were charged with “terrorism” in the same case. All three pleaded not guilty.
The court is scheduled to hear witnesses next Sunday, with the date for a verdict to be confirmed.
It was not the first time a Jordanian tourist attraction has been attacked.
In December 2016, in Karak, home to one of the region’s biggest Crusader castles, 10 people — seven police, two Jordanian civilians and a Canadian tourist — were killed in an attack that also left 30 wounded.
That attack was claimed by Daesh and 10 people were later convicted of carrying out the assault, two of them sentenced to death.
Tourism is a key lifeline for Jordan, a country lacking in natural resources and reliant on foreign aid. The sector accounted for 14 percent of GDP in 2019.
The kingdom, bordering conflict-torn Syria and Iraq, has been working to revive its tourism industry and aims to attract seven million holidaymakers a year.