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US forces targeted by rocket attacks on 2 Iraqi bases

Three mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles are parked at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Apr. 9, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Derek Mustard)
May 04, 2021

On Tuesday, at least two rockets were fired at the Ain Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, which houses U.S. and international troops. The rocket attack came less than a day after a rocket attack on a separate Iraqi base, Balad Airbase, that houses U.S. contractors.

Initial reports from the attacks on both of the Iraqi airbases indicated no casualties from either incident.

Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto confirmed the attack against Ain al-Asad airbase, “Initial report: @SecMedCell reports two Katyusha rockets landed in an empty square at Ain Al-Asad Air Base AAAB in Anbar Governorate. No casualties or material losses. For more information see @SecMedCell or @IraqiSpoxMOD

“Each attack against the [Government of Iraq], [Kurdistan Regional Government] and Coalition undermines the authority of Iraqi institutions, the rule of law and Iraqi national sovereignty,” Marotto continued.

The Associated Press also reported, citing an Iraqi military statement, that at least four Katyusha rockets hit Balad Airbase at around 8 p.m. local time.

On Monday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, “Balad is an Iraqi base, there are no U.S. or coalition troops assigned there. There’s a private U.S. company that does have contractors working there, and initial reports that we’ve seen are that there are no U.S. casualties or damages.”

Security forces then launched a search operation to find whoever launched the rocket attack. Aurora Intel tweeted purported photos from the search operation, in which used rocket tubes appear to have been found.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for either of the rocket attacks. U.S. officials have previously blamed Iran-backed Iraqi militia factions for similar rocket attacks.

Aurora Intel tweeted additional photos showing stickers depicting slain Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani attached to the captured rocket tubes. Soleimani was killed in a January 2020 U.S. airstrike while travelling in Baghdad. Then-President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials at the time said Soleimani was planning attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

“3 107mm rockets were fired at Balad Airbase, #Iraq in the last hour, no injuries reported. The launchers were located with some familiar faces on them….”

Balad Airbase was targeted by a similar rocket attack on April 18, resulting in injuries to at least two Iraqi security force troops.

The Ain Al-Asad Airbase was also hit with a 10-rocket attack in March. No casualties were reported as a direct result of the rocket impacts, though one U.S. contractor died after suffering a cardiac episode while sheltering from the rockets.

The pair of rocket attacks on the two Iraqi bases this week also comes after at least two rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport on Sunday, Reuters reported, citing Iraqi military officials. The Baghdad airport also houses U.S. troops in Iraq and has been targeted in other similar attacks. The Sunday attack on the Baghdad airport similarly resulted in no casualties.

There are around 2,500 U.S. troops currently deployed in Iraq. U.S. troops have faced calls to withdraw entirely from Iraq following the January 2020 strike that killed Soleimani. In the days immediately after Soleimani was killed, the Iraqi parliament passed a nonbinding resolution, demanding all foreign troops leave the country.