BAGHDAD/JEDDAH: Simmering tension in Iraq boiled over on Wednesday when Iran-backed militias launched a new barrage of rockets targeting an air base that hosts US and other international forces.
At least 14 missiles hit the Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq, used by coalition forces fighting the remnants of the Daesh extremist group.
US Army Col. Wayne Marotto, the coalition spokesman, said the rockets landed on the base and its perimeter, and two people were injured.
Iraqi military sources said a rocket launcher fixed on the back of a truck, which was found set on fire in nearby farmland, was used in the strike.
The attack was the latest in a series of rocket, missile and drone strikes on US assets in Iraq, which have been targeted almost 50 times this year. Three rockets also landed on Ain Al-Asad on Monday without causing casualties.
Iraqi army officials said the pace of recent attacks against US bases with rockets and explosive-laden drones was unprecedented.
Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran vowed to retaliate after last month’s US strikes on the Iraqi-Syrian border killed four of their members.
The US told the UN Security Council last week that it targeted Iran-backed militia in Syria and Iraq with airstrikes to deter the militants and Tehran from conducting or supporting further attacks on US personnel or facilities.
On Tuesday, an armed drone attacked Irbil airport in northern Iraq, targeting a US base on the airport grounds, and Syrian Kurdish forces said they repelled further drone attacks near the base on Wednesday.
“Our frontline forces against Daesh, and coalition forces in the area of the Omar oil field, dealt with drone attacks,” the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said.
They said initial reports indicated the attacks had caused no damage. It was the second such attempted attack in days after the SDF reported “two unidentified rocket-propelled grenades landed on the western side of the Omar oil field” late on Sunday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor with sources inside Syria, said pro-Iran militias had launched the drones from a rural area outside the town of Al-Mayadeen southwest of the oil field.
Pro-Iran militias also fired several shells at the oil field on Monday last week, causing damage but no casualties, the Observatory said.
The shelling came after the US launched airstrikes the previous night against three targets it said were used by pro-Iran groups in eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Hundreds of US troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, working with the SDF to fight against the Daesh group.
Thousands of Iran-backed militiamen from around the Middle East are deployed in different parts of Syria, many of them in areas along the border with Iraq.
The leader of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia vowed on Monday to retaliate against America for the deaths of four of his men in a US airstrike along the Iraq-Syria border last month. Abu Alaa Al-Walae, commander of Kataib Sayyid Al-Shuhada said the attack will be a military operation everyone will talk about.
The US has blamed Iran-backed militias for attacks — most of them rocket strikes — that have targeted the American presence in Baghdad and military bases across Iraq. More recently, the attacks have become more sophisticated, with militants using drones.