Blasts reported at Iraqi warehouse allegedly used by Iran-backed militia

Report indicates drone was in area at time of explosion in western Anbar Province, day after alleged strike on group on Syrian side of border and failed missile attack

Iraq's elite counter terrorism forces advance through soft desert terrain outside the western Islamic State held town of Hit, 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 3, 2016. (AP/Khalid Mohammed)
Iraq's elite counter terrorism forces advance through soft desert terrain outside the western Islamic State held town of Hit, 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, April 3, 2016. (AP/Khalid Mohammed)

Loud explosions were reported early Tuesday at a warehouse in Iraq apparently used by an Shiite militia, seemingly the latest of a string of attacks targeting Iranian-backed groups in western Iraq and eastern Syria.

The explosions were reported near the city of Hit in Anbar Province, northwest of Baghdad.

According to al-Arabiya, an Iraqi officer said there was a drone in the area at the time of the blasts.

It was not clear what the warehouse was storing, but Sky News Arabic reported that after the blast, shells were launched into neighboring areas, indicating an arms depot may have been hit. Al-Arabiya also reported that the warehouse was used to store weaponry and belonged to the Popular Mobilization Forces.

There were reports of casualties from the blasts, though it was unclear how many there were.

The warehouse reportedly belonged to the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iran-backed militia which has blamed both Israel and the US for a recent string of blasts and drone sightings at its bases.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

On Monday, Israel accused an unnamed Shiite militia backed by Iran of firing several rockets toward northern Israel in the predawn hours, saying they fell short of the border.

The alleged attack came amid reports of a series of airstrikes against the PMF in eastern Syria, which killed 18 fighters, according to a Britain-based war monitor.

A Syrian security official said Israeli jets staged the airstrikes, but denied there were any casualties. An official with the PMF also blamed Israel for the airstrikes that hit in the eastern Syrian town of Al-Bukamal early Monday.

Satellite image showing the construction of a new Iranian military base in Iraq’s Albukamal Al-Qaim region, near the Syrian border (ImageSat International via Fox News)

Israel views Iran as its greatest threat, and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes in Syria in recent years aimed primarily at preventing the transfers of sophisticated weapons, including guided missiles, to the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

This quiet war has reportedly expanded to Iraq in recent weeks, with unnamed US officials saying the Israel Defense Forces was behind at least some strikes on Iran-linked sites in Iraq.

The Pentagon, which is mindful of not alienating Iraq’s leadership and jeopardizing its military presence in the country, has pointedly distanced itself from the mysterious explosions.

The PMF was established in 2014 from mostly Shiite paramilitary groups and volunteers to fight the Islamic State jihadist organization and is now formally part of Iraq’s armed forces.

But the US and Israel fear some units are an extension of Iran and have been equipped with precision-guided missiles that could reach Israel.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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