Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, told Senate lawmakers on Thursday morning that Iranian-backed Iraqi militants are responsible for the rocket attack that killed two Americans and one Brit on Wednesday.
“The Iranian proxy group Kata’eb Hezbollah is the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq,” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said.
Kata’eb Hezbollah is the same militia group responsible for the retaliatory attacks on U.S. troops in January, just days after a U.S. airstrike killed Iran’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani. The same militia also launched a rocket attack several weeks earlier that killed an American contractor.
“What has not changed is their continuing desire to operate through their proxies indirectly against us,” McKenzie said.
He also added that Iran remains the largest supporter of terrorism in the region.
McKenzie noted that two aircraft carriers — USS Harry Truman and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower — are now positioned in the Middle East, but did not indicate any plans for a retaliatory attack against the militia group.
At least 18 rockets struck Camp Taji, a coalition base housing U.S. troops in northern Baghdad, Iraq on Wednesday. Reports have indicated that two American and one British personnel were killed. U.S. officials have confirmed “3 Coalition personnel” were killed in the attack.
Defense officials told the Associated Press that the three personnel considered of two U.S. troops and one British troop. Another U.S. official who spoke anonymously to the AP said as many as 30 rockets were fired at the base, 18 of which struck the base.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherence Resolve spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III confirmed the attack in a tweet, saying, “3 Coalition personnel were killed during a rocket attack on Camp Taji, March 11.”
“Approximately 12 additional personnel were wounded in the attack,” an OIR statement said. “Approximately 18 107mm Katyusha rockets struck the base. The Iraqi Security Forces found a rocket-rigged truck, a few miles from Camp Taji.”
Caggins had shared photos of the rocket in a previous tweet, and at the time, reported only that 15 rockets had struck the base.
“The Coalition CJTFOIR confirms more than 15 small rockets impacted Iraq’s Camp Taji base hosting Coalition troops, March 11 at 7:35 p.m. (Iraq Time). Assessment and investigation ongoing,” Caggins had said.
The Coalition @CJTFOIR confirms more than 15 small rockets impacted Iraq’s Camp Taji base hosting Coalition troops, March 11 at 7:35 p.m. (Iraq Time). Assessment and investigation ongoing, follow @OIRSpox & @SecMedCell for updates. https://t.co/oNgNfCEYG7
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) March 11, 2020
Previously, an Iraqi military statement said 10 Katyusha rockets hit the base, and no casualties were suffered in the attack.
Three additional missiles and a launching platform were located south of Rashidiya, the Iraqi military statement said.
Katyusha rockets are Soviet-era rockets frequently used by militia groups in Iraq.
Videos claiming to be taken from eyewitnesses of the attack have surfaced on social media.
اثناء تعرض معسكر التاجي
الى قصف صار وخي pic.twitter.com/hEi4pkhQm6
— Firas W. Alsarray – فراس السراي (@firasalsarrai) March 11, 2020
An unconfirmed video has been sent to me claiming to be from the recent katyusha attack on Camp Taji.
Part of me thinks i’ve seen this before but not 100% sure…. [David] pic.twitter.com/RvyvTnedWj
— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) March 11, 2020
In the last hour a #rocketattack was conducted against #CampTaji, in Northern #Baghdad, #Iraq. Local source in #video included reportedly captured the #katyusha rockets launched@AuroraIntel@NewsKali pic.twitter.com/hFEG1zj05m
— Kali Yuga | Apocalyptic News (@NewsKali) March 11, 2020
The validity of the videos cannot yet be confirmed.
As many as 6,000 U.S. troops are assigned in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi troops, as well as to conduct anti-terror missions.