US forces: Rockets hit airbase in Iraq housing US troops

Grant Boone
March 3, 2021

At least 10 rockets have targeted a military base in western Anbar province that hosts Iraqi and US-led coalition troops.

The rockets struck Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said.

Wednesday's attack hit the same base where Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January previous year in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani outside Baghdad airport.

It also comes just two days before the first-ever papal visit to the country by Pope Francis, who said he would still make the visit so as not to "disappoint" the Iraqi people.

Denmark, which also has troops at the base, condemned the attack, saying that coalition forces at Ain al-Asad are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, helping to bring stability and security to the country. He said there were no service members injured, and all were accounted for. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

The rocket launcher was found in the al-Bayader agricultural area near the town of al-Baghdadi, about 180 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, military sources told CNN.

Denmark, which like the USA and Britain also has troops at the base, said coalition forces at Ain al-Asad were helping to bring stability and security to the country.

Marotto said the Iraqi security forces were leading an investigation into Wednesday's attack.

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Last week's USA strike along the border was in response to a spate of rocket attacks that targeted the American presence, including one that killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines outside the Irbil airport.

The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Asad base in Iraq's western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.

The Pentagon had said the strike was a "proportionate military response" taken after consulting coalition partners.

United States officials said the group was merely a front for one of the main Shia militias, and the retaliatory strikes on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq targeted buildings believed to belong to several of them, including Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

Hardline Iraqi groups have an interest in ramping up the pressure on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi following his pledges to rein in rogue militias.

A deadly rocket attack in December 2019 kicked off a series of escalations that culminated with the drone strike in Baghdad and Tehran's launch of over a dozen ballistic missiles targeting al Asad and the airfield in Irbil.

Iraq is simultaneously gripped by a second wave of the coronavirus, which is seeing more than 4,500 new cases a day in the country of 40 million.

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