A massive explosion at Shayrat air base in Syria’s central Homs province on Saturday killed at least 31 regime soldiers and allied paramilitaries, a monitoring group reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear what caused the munitions blast.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that it was the result of a “technical error during the transport of expired ammunition.” It added that there were casualties but did not specify how many.

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The Shayrat airport in the center of the country is a strategically important base for the Syrian government.

According to the Observatory, Iranian fighters allied with the regime are currently based there.

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In 2017, the United States hit Shayrat with air strikes in retaliation for a suspected sarin gas attack on the northwestern rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed more than 80 people.

The Pentagon said it had intelligence suggesting that the base had been the launch site of the alleged chemical attack.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011.

nm/jlw (AFP, dpa) 

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