In Rudaw

Multiple explosions reported at weapons depot in southern Baghdad’s al-Saqr military base

Two explosions rocked a weapons depot inside al-Saqr military base in southern Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood on Sunday evening, an Iraqi military official confirmed to Rudaw English.

Maj. Gen. Tahsin Khafaji, spokesperson of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, confirmed to Rudaw English that blasts had occurred at the facility that houses Iraqi federal police units, as well as a contingent of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic).

The Iraqi security media cell later released a statement saying two explosions had taken place.

“The source of the explosion is mismanagement of the storage of the weapons and heat,” the statement reads.

However, the Iran-backed PMF unit Harakat al-Nujaba claimed that an airstrike was the source of the explosion at al-Saqr base Sunday evening on their official Telegram messaging app channel.

Last year, officials also claimed negligent storage of weaponry and extremely high summer temperatures caused a similar incident at Al-Saqr military base during the summer, when the weapons depot caught fire, resulting in explosives and mortar shells shooting into the sky. The blast damaged homes in the area and forced residents to rush into the streets. One person died, and 29 others were injured.

The Iraqi government and PMF leaders have accused Israel of attacks on a series of the militia network’s bases and arms depots last year.

Israel has conducted many air operations against Iranian targets in Syria, however, has not explicitly admitted to carrying out airstrikes against similar targets in Iraq.

Multiple attacks on PMF targets inside Iraq during 2019, pushed former Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, to ban all unauthorized flights in Iraqi airspace and ordered military camps and munitions warehouses to be moved outside of cities.

The mostly Shiite paramilitaries in the PMF were formed in 2014 based on a fatwa, or religious decree, by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest Shiite authority in Iraq, to fight the Islamic State (ISIS). The PMF have contributed to the fight against ISIS, but also some units within the armed group receive support from Iran, which has exacerbated tensions with the US. Source