Explosion at Iraq's PMF Camp Caused by Stored Ammunition, Officials Say

Explosion at PMF camp in Iraq kills 1, injures 8; tensions rise between Iran-backed militias and US forces as regional conflicts spill over.

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Explosion at Iraq's PMF Camp Caused by Stored Ammunition, Officials Say

Explosion at Iraq's PMF Camp Caused by Stored Ammunition, Officials Say

An explosion and fire at a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) camp in Babil, Iraq on April 25, 2024 was caused by stored ammunition, according to official Iraqi media. The incident resulted in the death of one PMF member and the injury of eight others, including an Iraqi army soldier.

Initial reports from militia officials described the explosion as an airstrike, blaming it on U.S. forces. However, the U.S. Central Command denied carrying out any airstrikes in Iraq. The Iraqi Security Media Cell later stated that there were no drones or fighter jets detected in the area before or during the blast.

The PMF is a coalition of primarily Shiite, Iran-backed armed groups designated as an "independent military formation" within the Iraqi armed forces. In recent months, some PMF member groups have launched attacks on U.S. forces based in Iraq and Syria, which they said was in response to Washington's support of Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

The explosion at the PMF base occurred a day after a suspected Israeli strike in Iran, and an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to have launched a drone attack against the Israeli Red Sea town of Eilat in response, but there were no reports of such an attack in Israel.

Why this matters: The incident emphasizes the ongoing tensions between Iran-backed militias and U.S. forces in Iraq, as well as the potential for regional conflicts to spill over into Iraq. It also highlights the challenges facing the Iraqi government in managing the PMF and maintaining stability in the country.

An Iraqi military investigations committee announced that the attack on the Kalso base was not carried out by jets or drones, but by a rocket. The committee found fragments of five rockets 150 meters from the attack site, and tests on the soil and rocket fragments proved the presence of TNT, ammonium nitrate, and dibutyl phthalate, which are used in the manufacture of explosives and rockets. "The phrasing of the report may be an attempt to calm the air between the armed factions and the Americans, especially after Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani's visit to the US," a PMF source said.

Key Takeaways

  • Explosion at PMF camp in Iraq killed 1, injured 8, caused by stored ammunition
  • Initial reports blamed U.S. airstrikes, but U.S. denied involvement; no drones/jets detected
  • PMF is Iran-backed militia group that has attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria
  • Explosion occurred a day after suspected Israeli strike in Iran, PMF claimed drone attack
  • Iraqi committee found rocket attack, not airstrike, on PMF base, likely to calm tensions