Bases housing US troops in Iraq, Syria come under attack
Iraqi military bases hosting US troops in Iraq's western Anbar province and the capital of Baghdad were hit by Katyusha rockets Wednesday while in Syria, eight rounds of indirect fire landed inside a base with members of the US-led coalition, the Iraqi and US militaries said.
According to an Iraqi officer, an Iraqi base housing US troops in the western Anbar province was hit with five Katyusha rockets on Wednesday evening; three other rockets fell outside the base's parameter. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said US-led coalition forces at the base were forced into shelters by the barrage.
Later Wednesday, a previously-unheard of group in Iraq calling itself Qassem al-Jabarayn claimed responsibility for the Ain al-Asad attack. The group vowed in an online post to keep up attacks until the full withdrawal of US forces.
Since Soleimani's death, Iran-backed militias in Iraq have become increasingly unruly and disparate, although some analysts argue the militias have splintered only to allow them to claim attacks under different names to mask their involvement.
Earlier Wednesday, the Iraqi military said a rocket launcher with one rocket was located in a residential district in western Baghdad, an area used in the past by Iran-backed militias to fire at the airport.
Coalition forces, acting on intelligence, responded by firing six rounds of artillery towards the point of origin of the attack just outside the eastern town of Mayadeen, a stronghold of Iran-backed fighters, the statement said.
The statement said “Iran-supported malign actors fired...from within civilian infrastructure with no regard for civilian safety.” It said that hours earlier, US-led coalition forces had observed several launch sites near the base known as Green Village. Coalition forces conducted several strikes to eliminate the threats, it added.
“The Coalition reserves the right to defend itself and partner forces against any threat, and will continue to do everything within its power to protect those forces,” said Maj Gen John W Brennan, Jr, commander of the joint task force.
“We're very mindful of the threat environment and it is very dynamic right now,” he said. Kirby said the attacks could be related to the anniversary of Soleimani's killing or a reaction to the continuing presence of American forces in Iraq — but likely are a combination of both.
Iranian-backed militias have wanted all US troops out of the country, and many believed that would happen by the end of the year.
On Monday, two armed drones were shot down as they headed toward a facility housing US advisors at Baghdad airport. Two explosives-laden drones targeting an Iraqi military base housing US troops in western Anbar province were destroyed on Tuesday.
The 2020 US drone strike at Baghdad's airport killed Soleimani, who was the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces.
The US-led coalition formally ended its combat mission supporting Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group last month. Some 2,500 troops will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.
The top US commander for the Middle East Marine Gen Frank McKenzie warned in an interview with The Associated Press last month that he expects increasing attacks on US and Iraqi personnel by Iranian-backed militias determined to get American forces out.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)