A state of chaos witnessed in the Iraqi border area of Al-Qaim, while panic spread among the armed militias, after the American aircraft carried out precise strikes against these Iranian-backed factions in Iraq and Syria, in response to attacks by drones launched by the group against American personnel and facilities in Iraq, according to sources. A local spoke to The Eastern Herald.
The strikes killed 4 people, according to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Authority, 7 according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and “15” according to other sources.
An officer at Al-Qaim police station said that “the injuries were direct” and that one of the headquarters contained “equipment stores and private stores.”
The officer, who asked not to be named, added to The Eastern Herald website that “the militia fighters in the other headquarters resorted to the headquarters of the Iraqi border guards, fearing that their headquarters would also be targeted.”
On Monday, the US administration said the strikes by the US Air Force were “self-defense.”
“President Biden authorized the lawful military strikes,” House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The US Defense Department said that the strike it carried out came “in response to drone attacks launched by these factions on Americans and American facilities in Iraq,” while a US military statement said that it targeted weapons operating and storage facilities in two locations in Syria and one in Iraq.
The police officer said that “one of the warehouses was completely destroyed, while militia soldiers prevented the police forces from reaching another warehouse, which was also very badly damaged.”
The officer does not have information about the results of the strike on the Syrian side of the border, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that “seven people” were killed in the two strikes, and weapons depots were destroyed.
The Iraqi government considered the strikes an “attack on its sovereignty,” while armed groups vowed to respond.
A local source from the area said that the attacks came after the militias changed the locations of their weapons depots several times inside the area.
The source, who requested that The Eastern Herald not be named, added that “the militias changed the locations of the headquarters near the railway port on the Syrian border, and moved it to an area known as the village of Al-Jaghayfa in the city of Al-Qaim as well.”
The change came, according to the source, after the American aircraft targeted those headquarters earlier.
This is the second time that US President Joe Biden has ordered retaliatory attacks against Iranian-backed militias since taking office five months ago.
In February, Biden ordered limited attacks on a target in Syria in response to missile attacks in Iraq.
Another local source from Al-Qaim said that the railway crossing is used extensively to smuggle weapons to and from Syria, adding that “the militias drive trucks almost daily” to transport weapons and missiles between the two countries.
Iraqi militias have advanced positions in both countries, and along the extended Iraqi-Syrian borderline – except for the Kurdistan region.
The source said that “the militias moved between Karbala and Saada village” in the Al-Qaim area, which “caused great panic for the people” due to the presence of militia camps between their homes.
The source, who works to transport agricultural products and sheep between Iraq and Syria, said that 10-15 militants were killed in the Iraqi and Syrian sites, adding that “some of them were non-Iraqis.”
The source says that “the situation is currently tense in the area, especially with the arrival of anti-aircraft wheels belonging to the crowd, while warplanes are combing the area of Ain al-Assad base.”