Tuesday, October 10, 2006


A story to watch

Johnny Angel said this looked like shelling: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 21:54 GMT 22:54 UK BBC Blasts rock US army base in Iraq The base is in the Doura district A fire at a US base in the Iraqi capital Baghdad has caused a series of explosions, the military has said. There were no immediate reports of casualties at the base, known as Forward Operating Base Falcon. The US military blamed the explosions on ammunition "cooking off" in the heat. They said they did not know what had caused the initial fire. Blasts from the base, in the south of the city, were heard for miles around. The BBC's Andrew North, in Baghdad, said the explosions started at about 2300 (2100 BST) and were becoming "evermore frequent" as the fire appeared to be spreading. "Given the number and the scale of these explosions - and this is a very large base with a large number of troops - casualties are a possibility," he said. The Iraqi Interior Ministry said the blasts had shaken three neighbourhoods close to the base in the southern district of Doura. Latest BBC radio says fire still raging. There are reports of an attack on the base. UPDATE by PW: The BBC now says it was definitely a mortar blast:
Mortar causes Baghdad base fire

The US military has said that a huge fire at an army base's ammunitions store in the Iraqi capital was caused by a mortar fired by insurgents.
"Intelligence indicates that civilians aligned with a militia organisation were responsible for last night's mortar attack," Base spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Withington said.

Earlier, an insurgent group had posted a statement on the internet, claiming responsibility for the attack.

The US military spokesman said that all troops and workers on the base had been safely evacuated to bomb shelters to protect them from the blasts.

He said no-one had been injured in the explosions.

Hmmmm. A heat-related cookoff is possible. I checked the Baghdad weather report and it's currently 99F there right now (2:30 PM local time). But one would think that something like that would be readily noticed and contained before it had a chance to spread. Also, if there were multiple simultaneous blasts, then we'd have to look at shelling rather than cookoffs. It's not as if the insurgents don't have lots of conventional weapons. The looted depot at Al QaQaa alone probably supplied them with enough munitions for several decades' worth of asymmetrical warfare.
I just found a BBC story that says it was definitely an insurgent mortar attack that touched off the explosions. I edited the post accordingly.
Thanks for updating the story, PW.

Maybe the insurgents got a lucky hit. But I find this story troubling because it could indicate either carelessness on the part of the troops or-- and this is worse-- very good inside intelligence by the insurgents, so that they know when ammunition is being loaded and unloaded.
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