Rockets hit Iraq air base that houses US troops


BAGHDAD (AP) – At least 10 rockets hit a military base in western Iraq that houses troops from the US-led coalition on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. It was not immediately known if there were any casualties.

The rockets hit the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province at 7:20 am, spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said.

Later, the Iraqi army issued a statement saying that the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the missiles. An Iraqi military official said they had been found in the Anbar al-Baghdadi area, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to report to the media.

It was the first attack since the United States struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week that killed a militant, stoking fears of a possible repeat of a series of tit-for-tat attacks that they escalated last year, culminating in the US-led drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani outside the Baghdad airport.

Wednesday’s attack targeted the same base where Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for Soleimani’s assassination. Dozens of US servicemen were injured and suffered concussions in that attack.

Denmark, which also has troops at the base, condemned the attack and said that the coalition forces in Ain al-Assad are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, helping to bring stability and security to the country.

“The despicable attacks on Ain al-Asad’s base in #Iraq are completely unacceptable,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces said that two Danes, who were in the camp at the time of the attack, are unharmed.

Wednesday’s attack comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq on a highly anticipated trip that will include Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern city of Irbil.

Last week’s US attack along the border had been in response to a series of rocket attacks on the US presence, including one that killed a Philippine coalition contractor outside Irbil airport.

After that attack, the Pentagon said the attack was a “proportionate military response” taken after consulting with coalition partners.

Marotto said Iraqi security forces were leading an investigation into the attack on Ain al-Asad.

US troops in Iraq significantly decreased their presence in the country last year under the Trump administration. The forces withdrew from various Iraqis based across the country to consolidate mainly in Ain al-Asad and Baghad.

Frequent rocket attacks on the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy, ​​during President Donald Trump’s tenure frustrated the administration, prompting threats to close the embassy and intensified strikes.

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Associated Press journalist Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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