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Terrorist rocket attack hits Iraqi base hosting US contractors – injuries confirmed

Airmen with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base Balad, Feb. 19, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael Holzworth)
April 19, 2021

Several rockets were fired at Iraq’s Balad Airbase, which hosts U.S. security contractors, on Sunday, resulting in injuries to at least two Iraqi troops.

U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve tweeted a message shared by the Iraqi government’s security media service. “In a new crime committed by the outlaws today by targeting Balad air base with five rockets launched from Domjah area/ Al-Khalis District. Resulted in the injury of two members of the Base Guard and Protection Regiment.”

“These heinous acts targeting our military installations will face a severe response from our Iraqi heroes’ security forces that will not hesitate to defend the properties of the state, including this air base that includes the Iraqi Air Force (F-16) aircraft,” the Iraqi security message continued.

Maj. Gen. Diaa Mohsen, the commander of Balad Airbase, told the Associated Press that at least two rockets exploded inside the base.

The Iraqi government is considering the incident an act of terror.

Marotto also tweeted, “Each attack against the GoI, KRG and Coalition undermines the authority of Iraqi institutions, the rule of law and Iraqi national sovereignty.”

The rocket attack comes about a month after another rocket attack on Balad Airbase. Iraqi security forces reported minimal damage at the base after the March attack, but did damage a nearby civilian home.

The Associated Press reported the Sunday rocket attack also comes just days after a drone, armed with explosives, targeted U.S.-led coalition forces in Erbil in northern Iraq.

Earlier in March, a base in western Iraq that houses U.S.-led coalition troops and contractors was also targeted by 10 rockets. One U.S. contractor was killed in the attack.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011 but returned in 2014 amid the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, known as ISIS or Daesh. U.S.-led coalition forces and Iraqi government forces have continued to fight ISIS in the years since U.S. troops returned to the country.

U.S. troops in Iraq have also been targeted by pro-Iranian Iraqi militias, such as the Kata’eb Hezbollah militia. The Kata’eb Hezbollah was suspected of carrying out a February rocket attack, killing one civilian contractor, killing one and injuring six – including an American service member. The Iran-backed group was one of the groups targeted by U.S. airstrikes in Syria in February as part of President Joe Biden’s first military strikes after taking office.

In the final weeks of his presidential term, then-President Donald Trump ordered the number of U.S. troops in Iraq reduced to about 2,500.