US Denies Conducting Airstrikes in Iraq After Deadly Blast at Military Base

The US denies involvement in an attack on an Iran-backed militia base in Iraq, amid heightened regional tensions. The incident highlights the complex dynamics between the US, Iraq, and Iran-backed groups in the region.

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US Denies Conducting Airstrikes in Iraq After Deadly Blast at Military Base

US Denies Conducting Airstrikes in Iraq After Deadly Blast at Military Base

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) has denied reports that the United States conducted airstrikes in Iraq on April 21, 2024, following a blast at the Kalso military base that killed one member of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and wounded eight others. The explosion and fire occurred around 1 a.m. local time at Camp Kalsu, a base north of Babil Governorate that was previously a US military joint forces base until it was handed over to the Iraqi military in 2011.

The Iraqi military said its air defense command confirmed through technical efforts and radar detection that there were no drones or fighter jets in the airspace before and during the explosion. Two security sources had initially reported that an airstrike caused the blast at the base, which housed pro-Iranian militia. However, CENTCOM stated that the reports of US airstrikes in Iraq are not true and that the US has not conducted any air strikes in Iraq on that day.

Why this matters: The blast at the Kalso military base comes amid heightened tensions in the Middle East, just days after Israel's strike on Iran, which followed Tehran's missile and drone assault on Israel on April 13. The incident also highlights the complex dynamics between the US, Iraq, and Iran-backed militias in the region.

The Iraqi government has formed a committee to investigate the causes of the explosion and fire. The PMF, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), is a predominantly Shiite, Iran-backed paramilitary force based in Iraq. It contains groups that have advanced Iran's interests in the Middle East and is closely linked to Iran-aligned Shiite blocs that have dominated Iraqi politics for years.

The US-led Coalition continues to operate in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to deter ISIS, and includes training and assisting local groups and militias allied with the US. Approximately 2,500 US troops are currently deployed in Iraq. The incident at Camp Kalsu has led to speculation about possible Israeli involvement, but an Israeli official denied the regime's involvement.

The Iraqi military launched an investigation into the incident, with preliminary information from the US-led coalition and the Pentagon indicating there was no airstrike or other military action in the area at the time. "The Sayyed al-Shuhada Brigades confirms that it reserves the right to respond to whoever was behind the sinful attack on its base after the investigation is completed," stated an Iranian-backed Hashd Shaabi faction. The explosion resulted in material losses and casualties, with the ministry of interior and military sources reporting one person killed and eight others injured.

Key Takeaways

  • CENTCOM denied US involvement in airstrike that hit Iran-backed forces in Iraq.
  • Blast at Kalso military base killed 1 Iraqi PMF member, wounded 8 others.
  • Iraqi military found no drones or fighter jets in airspace before/during explosion.
  • Incident highlights complex US-Iraq-Iran dynamics amid regional tensions.
  • Iraqi military launched investigation, Iran-backed faction reserves right to respond.