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Iraq investigates a blast at a base of Iran-allied militias that killed 1. U.S. denies involvement

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BAGHDAD -

Iraqi authorities said Saturday that they were investigating an explosion that struck a base belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Iran-allied militias, killing one person and injuring eight.

Militia officials had initially described the explosion at the Kalsu military base north of Babylon -- a former U.S. base that was handed over to the Iraqi military in 2011 -- as an airstrike, blaming it on U.S. forces. The U.S. Central Command denied in a statement that it had carried out any airstrikes in Iraq.

The PMF in a statement Saturday afternoon described the blast as an "attack" but did not blame any specific party.

Iraq's Security Media Cell said the country's air defence command had not detected any drones or fighter plane in the airspace of Babylon before or during the explosion. It said one PMF member died and eight people were injured, including an Iraqi army soldier.

The PMF is a coalition of primarily Shiite, Iran-backed armed groups designated as an "independent military formation" within the Iraqi armed forces.

In recent months, some of the PMF member groups launched attacks on U.S. forces based in Iraq and Syria, which they said was in retaliation for Washington's support of Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza. Those attacks halted at the end of January after three U.S. soldiers were killed in a strike on a base in Jordan, near the Syrian border, prompting U.S. retaliatory strikes in Iraq.

The explosion at the PMF base came a day after a suspected Israeli strike in Iran. An umbrella group of Iran-backed militias calling itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq said Saturday that it had launched a drone attack against the Israeli Red Sea town of Eilat in response to what it described as Israel's "violation of Iraqi sovereignty in its treacherous targeting of the Popular Mobilization Forces camps."

There were no reports in Israel of an attack on Eilat and no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

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