10 rockets were fired at Iraq’s Al Asad Airbase, which hosts U.S. and coalition forces on Wednesday morning. A U.S. contractor reportedly died of a heart attack while sheltering during the attack.
Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto tweeted, “Initial report: 10 IDF rockets targeted an Iraqi military base, Al Asad Airbase, hosting Coalition troops, on March 03, 2021 at approx 7:20 a.m. (Iraqi time). Iraqi SF are leading the response & investigation. Further information will be released as it becomes available.”
“10 Indirect Fire rockets and Iraqi Security Forces are investigating,” Marotto continued.
Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson tweeted, “U.S. officials: American contractor died of heart attack today in Iraq at same base where 10 rockets hit at 7:20 am local time. Officials say it’s not clear if the rockets caused the heart attack. The incident is under investigation. No U.S. troops killed or wounded in attack.”
In a later press statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed, “A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.”
Al Asad Airbase, in the Anbar province of Iraq, is the same base Iranian missile forces targeted with missile attacks on Jan. 8, 2020.
The rocket attack comes days after President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike on Iran-backed militia forces on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syrian border.
Biden’s airstrike came days after rocket attacks targeted U.S. and coalition forces in Erbil, Iraq, killing one civilian contractor and injuring six – including an American service member. Iran-backed militia forces are believed to have been behind the attack.
Following Biden’s strike, U.S. reportedly raised troop alert levels in anticipation of retaliatory attacks.
Kirby said “Iraqi security forces are on scene and investigating. We cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage. We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate.”
Kirby also said Al Asad’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) missile defensive systems were engaged during the attack and were used to defend the base.
The Iraqi military released a statement, obtained by CBS, saying the Wednesday morning attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the missiles. An Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the launcher was found in the al-Baghdadi area of the Anbar province.
A Twitter user posted photos purporting to show a burnt out dump truck, with its ramp lowered, was used as a makeshift stand for the rocket launches.
“Improvised launcher truck used to bombard ‘Ayn Al-Asad air base in western #Iraq this morning,” Twitter user H. Sumeri tweeted.
The attack also comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Iraq. According to the Associated Press, the Vatican previously defended plans for the visit, despite concerns about rising coronavirus infection rates in the country.