New rocket attack on Iraq’s air base fits profile of Iran-backed militia: U.S. officials

Military vehicles of U.S. soldiers are seen at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A new rocket attack against Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base that houses U.S.-led Coalition troops fit the profile of a strike by Iran-backed militia, officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Ten rockets landed at Ain al-Asad military air base in Anbar province on Wednesday.

There were no reports of injuries among U.S. service personnel but an American civilian contractor died after suffering a “cardiac episode” while sheltering from the rockets, the Pentagon said.

U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S. officials were examining the incident closely, according to Reuters.

“Thank God no one was killed by the rocket … We’re identifying whose responsible and we’ll make judgments at that point,” Biden told reporters before a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office.

U.S. officials told Reuters that the latest strike fit the profile of an attack by Iran-backed militia but the Pentagon said it was too soon to come to any conclusions.

“We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby added.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

A Baghdad Operations Command official told Reuters that the attack was launched from a location about eight km (five miles) from the base, which is in the westerly Anbar province.

Another Iraqi security source and a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the rockets had been launched from a point west of the nearby town of Baghdadi.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing that the U.S. was assessing the impact of the attack and whoever was responsible.

“If we assess that further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing,” she said.

“What we won’t do is do make hasty or ill-informed decision that further escalates the decision or plays into the hands of our adversaries,” she added.

In February, there were three rocket attacks in Iraq in just over a week that targeted areas that host U.S. troops, diplomats or contractors. One attack on Feb. 16 on U.S.-led forces killed a civilian contractor and injured a U.S. service member.

Last Thursday, U.S. forces carried out air strikes against facilities at a border control point in Syria used by Iranian-backed militias including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

 

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