Rockets hit airbase housing US troops
At least 10 rockets slammed into a base housing US and other coalition troops in western Iraq on Wednesday, military officials said. It was not known if there were any casualties, but the Iraqi military said there were no significant losses.
It was the first such attack since the US struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week, killing one militiaman and stoking fears of another cycle of tit-for-tat attacks as happened last year. Those attacks culminated in the US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad.
No one claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, which comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country amid concerns about security and the coronavirus pandemic. The much-anticipated trip will include stops in Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern city of Irbil.
The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province early in the morning, US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto said. In addition to American troops, Danish and British are among those stationed at the base. It’s the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of US service members suffered concussions in that strike.
The Iraqi military released a statement saying Wednesday’s attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets – a truck. Video of the site shows a burning truck in a desert area.
British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned the attack, saying it undermined the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group. “Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” he tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilise Iraq.”