Blasts Reported in Iraqi Warehouse Used by Iran-backed Militia

No state or organization said to be behind attack near Baghdad

Members of Iraqi PMF at their headquarters in Najaf, Iraq, July 2, 2019.
Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters

Iraq's interior ministry says a large explosion at an ammunition depot southwest of the capital, Baghdad, has injured 13 people, most lightly.

Maj. Gen. Saad Maan, a ministry spokesman, said it was not immediately clear what caused the blast at the al-Saqr military base.

Reports on Iraqi media have not named any state or organization behind the possible attack.

The explosion was heard throughout the city and smoke billowed in the air Monday evening.

>> Read more: Secret partner? Behind Iraq's silence on alleged Israeli strikes on Iranian targets

The base houses a weapons depot for the Iraqi federal police and the mainly Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. The state-sanctioned PMF militias, which also receive backing from Iran, have fought alongside Iraq's regular armed forces against the Islamic State group.

Last month, London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Israel has expanded the scope of its anti-Iranian attacks and struck targets in Iraq.

According to the report, which cited anonymous Western diplomats, Israel struck Iranian warehouses storing arms and missiles at Camp Ashraf, north-east of Baghdad, twice during July.

The base was formerly used by the People's Mujahedin of Iran, a militia that fought against the Iranian regime.

Over the past year, an number of strikes targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah in Syria were attributed to Israel.

Following last month's report, Israeli defense officials said Iran’s military entrenchment in Iraq poses a threat to Israel, adding that Tehran has shifted the bulk of its deployment of missile systems from Syria to Iraq, which is harder for Israel to attack than Syria was.

According to Israeli intelligence, Iran is currently providing Iraqi militias with missiles that have ranges of 200 to 700 kilometers and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. These missiles are more accurate than the ones in Hezbollah’s arsenal, and Iran may use them either to hit Israel directly from northern Iraq or to transfer them as needed to Syria and Lebanon.