With ISIL largely defeated, serious questions remain as to why the US needs to keep 2,500 troops in Iraq.
At least 14 rockets hit an airbase in western Iraq hosting US and other international forces on Wednesday, the latest in a series to tit-for-tat strikes with powerful Iran-aligned militias in the country.
Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the US-led coalition, said that Al-Assad Air Base in western Iraq was attacked early in the afternoon by 14 rockets that landed on the base and its perimeter, prompting the activation of defensive measures.
“Two personnel sustained minor injuries. Damage still be assessed,” Marotto said in a Twitter post.
Update: 100 % accountability at Ain Al-Assad Air Base after rocket attack. Two personnel sustained minor injuries. Damage still be assessed. More details will be provided when become available.
— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) July 7, 2021
A statement from the Security Media Cell, affiliated with Iraq’s security forces, said a mobile rocket launcher hidden in a truck loaded with bags of flour and parked in the nearby village of Baghdadi was used in the attack.
It added the 14 rockets were fired towards the base while the rest exploded on the truck, damaging some village homes and a mosque.
A previously unknown group calling itself Brigades to Avenge al-Muhandis said its members fired 30 rockets towards the base “run by American occupiers”.
It added a message to US troops: “We will force you to leave our lands defeated.”
The group is named after Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was killed last year in a US drone attack in Baghdad – along with top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Iraq’s government called it a “terrorist attack” and a “flagrant violation” of Iraqi laws.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from the capital Baghdad, said the government has vowed to bring those responsible for the attack to justice.
“It [government] has been warning against what it calls using Iraq as a zone to settle scores between enemies,” he said.
“The [Prime Minister Mustafa] al-Khadimi government is being embarrassed by such attacks, because it has been involved in what it calls strategic dialogue with the American side in order to guarantee a scheduled, or planned withdrawal or redeployment of the American personnel from Iraq.”
The US accuses Iranian-backed militia groups of launching regular rocket attacks against its troops in Iraq.
Some 2,500 US soldiers are deployed in Iraq as part of an international coalition to fight the ISIL (ISIS) armed group. They have been targeted almost 50 times this year.
The latest incident came two days after at least three rockets landed on Ain al-Asad without causing casualties.
Late Tuesday, the counter-terrorism unit in Iraq’s northern Kurdish-run region reported a drone attack on Erbil airport, near where US forces are based.
The statement by the unit said the attack caused no damage, though the missiles fell in open fields and set fires.