Explosions at ammunition warehouse kill one and injure 29 in Baghdad

Several blasts took place in a munitions storage facility in the Iraqi capital belonging to Popular Mobilisation Forces

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: A general view of the Bab al Sharji area of Baghdad.

Photo by Ali Arkady/Metrography
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A series of explosions at a warehouse storing weapons and ammunition killed one person and injured 29 people in south Baghdad on Monday.

The blasts occurred after a fire in a munitions storage site run by Iraq’s powerful Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella group of militias mainly aligned with Iran.

The facility stored short-range and Katyusha missiles, a security source told Reuters.

The fire ignited several rockets which struck neighbourhoods several miles away and injuring mainly children, said Qasim Al Attabi, a spokesman for the district's health directorate.

Health Ministry spokesman Saif Badr said most of the wounded were discharged from area hospitals with light wounds.

A police source told Reuters that the fire was probably caused by negligence leading to poor storage conditions and high temperatures. The Interior Ministry ordered an investigation.

The Iraqi Health Ministry on Monday said seven of those wounded were admitted to Yarmouk hospital and six to Mahmudiya.

The explosions began at about 7pm local time in the Abu Dshir area.

Videos showed huge plumes of smoke over the area, with several blasts heard across the city.

Iraqi Civil Defence rushed to the scene.

Iraqi officials earlier said it was an attack on a federal police military base but several outlets — including Sky News Arabia and Al Arabiya — reported it was a PMF warehouse.

A regional source suggested to The National that Kataib Hezbollah and Kataeb Sayyed Al Shuhada militias stored weapons at the location.

Both units are aligned with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and are part of the PMF.

The incident follows recent reports that Israel has carried out strikes against pro-Iran forces in Iraq.

Last month,  Asharq Awsat newspaper said Israeli planes attacked Iranian targets in Iraq twice near Baghdad. One attack targeted a PMF and Iranian rocket storage facility northeast of Baghdad, while a second one struck Camp Ashraf, northeast of Baghdad.

Al Arabiya reported that members of the IRGC and Hezbollah were killed in that strike.

Iraqi officials initially said an unmanned aircraft had dropped explosives on a base belonging to an Iran-linked PMF unit. The Pentagon denied that US forces were involved in the attack.

Israel does not usually comment on specific reports of strikes. Last month however the country's regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Israel is the only country that has been “killing Iranians.”

Iraq remains an important country of influence for both the US and Iran, who are currently in heightened tensions.

The country, which borders Iran and which the US invaded in 2003, is seen as a potential arena for any violent regional confrontation between the two foes because of the presence of Iran-backed militias operating in close proximity to bases hosting US forces.