BAGHDAD, Iraq - A fire broke out at an ammunition dump at a U.S. base in
southern Baghdad on Tuesday night, setting off a series of explosions from
detonating tank and artillery shells that shook buildings miles away. The U.S.
military said there were no immediate reports of casualties.
The sky over Baghdad is illuminated
by huge explosions in the Iraqi capital early Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2006. A
fire broke out at an ammunition depot at a U.S. base in southern Baghdad
on Tuesday night, setting off a series of explosions from detonating tank
and artillery shells that shook buildings miles away. The U.S. military
said there were no immediate reports of casualties.
It was not clear whether the ammunition holding area at Forward Operating
Base Falcon was hit by an attack. The cause of the fire was not immediately
known, said Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman.
Explosions from detonating tank and artillery ordnance and small-arms
ammunition stored at the site went off for hours after the fire erupted.
Large flames and smoke rose from the region, and flashes from the blasts and
showers of sparks were visible on the horizon from several miles away in central
Baghdad, where the force of the blasts could be felt. The blasts came at times
sporadically, at times in rapid succession, lasting into the night. Helicopters
were seen in the night sky flying over the area.
The Islamic Army in Iraq, an insurgent group believed to include former
members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, his intelligence service and army,
claimed responsibility Wednesday in a statement posted on the Internet.
"With the help of God, the mortar and rocket squads of the Islamic Army have
shelled a U.S. Army base with two rockets and three mortar shells," said the
statement posted on a Web site known to be used by insurgents. "The rockets and
shells fell on ammunition dumps causing them to explode. Sounds of explosions
were heard in Baghdad."
The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately verified.
The blaze broke out in an ammunition holding area, where material is kept
temporarily before distribution to the units at Falcon, said Lt. Col. Jonathan
Withington, a spokesman at the base. He said more than three battalions were
stationed there at the time of the fire but he would not give a specific number
"There is a lot of ammunition there, but it's not a full storage depot," he
said. "This does not degrade our operational ability at all."
He said the cause of the fire was under investigation.
Falcon is located in a former commercial trucking depot in a sprawling
industrial area at the southern entrance of Baghdad. It is near the
violence-torn district of Dora, where U.S. troops have been focusing in a
2-month-old sweep of the capital neighborhood-by-neighborhood aimed at rooting
out militants and weapons.
It lies on the main highway heading south of Baghdad. Much of the area around
it is sparsely populated, but on the opposite side of the highway, about 600
yards away, are residential neighborhoods.
Iraqi military officials said no evacuations of residents were ordered from
the Dora area.
Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani went on television to reassure
residents of the capital.
"The situation is under control," he said. "There is an alert to security
forces to provide any help to the residents of the area. We are waiting for
information from the Americans" on the cause, he said.