The missile strikes on the Ain Al-Assad base come in the context of frequent attacks on the headquarters of the American forces and the international coalition, and Washington responded a few days ago by launching raids on sites of Iraqi factions described as being backed by Iran, east of Syria, near the border with Iraq.
The White House said that the United States will respond to the missile attack that targeted American, Iraqi and other forces belonging to the international coalition at Ain Al-Assad base in Anbar province, western Iraq, while the Pentagon said that it is not possible to determine the party responsible for the attack yet.
White House spokeswoman Gene Saki said that President Joe Biden’s administration is still assessing the impact of the attack that took place today, and stressed that the United States responded to the recent Iranian-backed attacks, and this will be the model that we will follow from now on.
The spokesman for the international coalition against ISIS, Colonel Wayne Maruto, said that 10 missiles targeted the Ain Al-Asad air base this morning, according to initial reports.
Maruto added – in a tweet on Twitter – that the Iraqi forces are leading the response and investigation into the attack, which comes as part of a series of attacks that Washington accuses Iranian-backed militias of carrying out, explaining that more information will be announced as soon as it is available.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement today, Wednesday, that an American contractor died of a heart attack while sheltering from the missiles, while there were no reports of injuries among the American forces.
“We cannot determine responsibility at this time, and we do not have a full estimate of the extent of the damage,” Kirby said, while Iraqi security forces were investigating the attack.
He added that the defense systems of Ain Al-Asad Air Force base were used, and that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was following the situation closely.
For his part, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command in Iraq, Major General Tahseen Al-Khafaji, told Al-Jazeera that the concerned authorities had begun an investigation into the attack with 10 “Grad” missiles on the Ain Al-Assad base.
Al-Khafaji added that all the rockets landed in the vicinity of the base and did not cause material or human damage to the base.
In a brief statement, the Iraqi Security Information Cell reported that the same number of Grad rockets had fallen, without any significant losses, indicating that the Iraqi forces had found the missile launch area.
As for the French Press Agency, it quoted Western security sources as saying that the missiles that targeted the Ain al-Assad base were Iranian-made “Arash”.
Details of the attack
In turn, Al-Jazeera correspondent Samer Youssef quoted Iraqi security sources as saying that the bombing was launched from Al-Bayader agricultural area of Al-Baghdadi district, 8 kilometers from the base, indicating that this area is populated by the Iraqi army and police, and the tribal mobilization (Hashd Al-Gharbia).
The reporter said that the missiles were placed on top of a civilian vehicle that was completely burnt after their launch.
Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying that the International Coalition planes flew after the bombing in the vicinity of the base, indicating that some witnesses were likely to evacuate soldiers to another place, while others suggested that the planes were conducting reconnaissance.
The attack comes about a week after the US bombing that targeted Iraqi armed factions in eastern Syria, and it also comes two days before the Pope’s visit to Iraq.
The Ain al-Assad base was hit in mid-January of last year by Iranian ballistic missiles, in response to the assassination of the former Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, which resulted in great damage and the injury of US soldiers with concussions, according to what was confirmed by the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Today’s missile attack on the Ain Al-Assad base comes after similar attacks recently targeted military headquarters where American and other foreign forces operating within the international coalition are stationed.
The Green Zone in Baghdad – which includes the US embassy – was among the targeted headquarters, in addition to an air base housing US forces in the vicinity of Erbil airport in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and the Balad air base in Salah al-Din Governorate, north of Baghdad.
The attack on the air base in Erbil resulted in the death of a foreign contractor and the injury of an American. An Iraqi civilian contractor was also wounded in the bombing of the air base in Balad.
In response to those attacks, the US military launched – last Thursday evening – raids on sites in eastern Syria at the border with Iraq, including militias that Washington says are backed by Iran, resulting in at least one dead, according to the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon), while Other sources reported that at least 17 militants were killed.
On the other hand, the Iraqi army today, with the support of warplanes, began military operations against ISIS in Baghdad (central), Diyala (east), and Kirkuk (north).
And the Anadolu News Agency quoted Iraqi security sources as saying that the operations are taking place in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, and in the areas of the Hamrin mountain range, the Olive Valley and Wadi Al-Shay, and reaching the area known as the Triangle of Death that connects the provinces of Diyala, Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.
An Iraqi officer told the agency that the operations aim to secure all areas of southwestern Kirkuk, and areas north of Diyala province.
The military operations carried out by the army, security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces follow separate attacks by ISIS, including bombings in Baghdad that left dozens dead and wounded recently.