US forces attacked at air base in Iraq react in self-defense

BAGHDAD, Nov 21 (Reuters) – U.S. forces were attacked on Tuesday at an air base west of Baghdad and a U.S. military plane responded in self-defense, killing a number of Iranian-backed militants, U.S. officials said.

The Ain al-Asad air base was attacked by a short-range ballistic missile, wounding eight people and causing minor damage to infrastructure, two US officials said.

The United States responded using an AC-130 aircraft already in the air and it hit an Iranian-backed militia vehicle as well as a number of personnel involved in the attack, Sabrina said Singh, Pentagon spokesperson.

She added that the plane was able to determine the point of origin and strike the militants because they were able to monitor their movements.

This is the first public retaliation on Iraqi territory to recent drone and missile attacks against U.S. troops, but Singh said there have been previous responses that have not been announced.

The United States had so far limited its response to 66 attacks on its forces in Iraq and neighboring Syria, claimed by Iran-aligned Iraqi militias, to three separate rounds of strikes in Syria.

At least 62 U.S. personnel suffered minor injuries or head trauma in these attacks.

The attacks began on October 17 and have been linked by Iraqi militias to US support for Israel in its bombing of Gaza following attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas against Israel.

The attacks on U.S. targets ended a yearlong unilateral truce that Iraqi factions, some formed following the 2003 U.S. invasion to fight U.S. troops and others in 2014 to fight the state Islamic, had declared with Washington.

Social media accounts linked to Iran-aligned Iraqi militias released a statement on behalf of the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” mourning a member they said was killed Tuesday in the battle against U.S. forces, without further comment details.

His killing is the first casualty in Iraq linked to the Gaza war, which has drawn in other factions of Iran’s network of regional militias, known as the Axis of Resistance, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq for a mission it says is aimed at advising and assisting local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State, which in 2014 s seized large areas of both countries before being defeated.

Reporting by Timour Azhari in Baghdad and Phil Stewart and Ali Idrees in Washington; Written by Timour Azhari; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alexandra Hudson, Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Porter

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington DC. It reports on American military activity and operations around the world and their impact. Has reported from more than two dozen countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

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Phil Stewart has reported from more than 60 countries, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and South Sudan. An award-winning national security journalist based in Washington, Phil has appeared on NPR, PBS NewsHour, Fox News and other programs and moderated national security events, including at the Reagan National Defense Forum and the German Marshall Fund. He is the recipient of the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence and the Joe Galloway Award.

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