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Rockets hit Iraq air base hosting US troops, 2 days before Pope’s visit

BAGHDAD (AP) – At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts US-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi army said. It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties.

The rockets hit the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province at 7.20 a.m., Colonel Wayne Marotto spokesman said.

The Iraqi military later issued a statement saying the attack did not cause significant casualties and that security forces found the launch pad used for the missiles. An Iraqi military official said they were found in the al-Baghdadi area in Anbar, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.

It was the first attack since the United States struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraqi-Syrian border last week that killed a militiaman, fueling fears of a possible repeat of a series of tit-for-tat attacks that escalated over the past year, culminating in the US-led drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassim Soleimani outside Baghdad airport .

Wednesday’s attack targeted the same base where Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for Soleimani’s murder. Dozens of American servicemen were injured and suffered concussions during the strike.

AYMAN HENNA / AFP via Getty Images

A photo taken on Jan. 13, 2020, during a press tour organized by the US-led coalition combating the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows an interior view of the Ain al-military airbase. Asad housing US and foreign troops in western Iraq. Anbar province.

Denmark, which also has troops at the base, condemned the attack, saying coalition forces in Ain al-Assad are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, helping to bring stability and security to the country.

“The despicable attacks on the Ain al-Assad base in #Iraq are totally unacceptable,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces said two Danes, who were in the camp at the time of the attack, are unharmed.

Wednesday’s attack comes two days before Pope Francis travels to Iraq on a highly anticipated trip that will include Baghdad, southern Iraq and the northern city of Irbil.

Last week’s U.S. strike along the border was in response to a wave of rocket attacks targeting the U.S. presence, including one that killed a Philippine coalition contractor outside of the U.S. Irbil airport.

After the attack, the Pentagon declared the strike a “proportionate military response” taken after consultation with coalition partners.

Marotto said Iraqi security forces were investigating the attack on Ain al-Assad.

US troops in Iraq significantly reduced their presence in the country last year under the Trump administration. Forces withdrew from several Iraqis based across the country to regroup mainly in Ain al-Asad and Baghad.

Frequent rocket attacks targeting the heavily walled Green Zone, home to the United States Embassy, ​​during President Donald Trump’s tenure frustrated the administration, resulting in threats to close the embassy and strike action. ‘climbing.

Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark contributed to this report.


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