A civilian contractor has died in a rocket strike against an airbase in Iraq hosting US troops.
The rocket attack comes just days after President Joe Biden’s ordered an airstrike against Iranian-backed militants in Syria which killed 22.
At least 10 rockets hit the Ain al-Asad airbase, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, at around 7.20 am local time from a launcher located five miles from the base.
It is not yet clear who carried out the strikes but it comes days after Biden approved his first airstrike – an attack on two Iranian-backed Shia militia groups in Syria.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been escalating in recent years, particularly during former president Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, exacerbated by the US taking out Iranian terrorist leader General Qasem Soleimani last year.
The attack also comes ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq, which is due to begin on Friday and will mark the first time a pope has been to the country.
Despite the rocket attack on the US Troops, Pope Francis said on Wednesday that he would still make the trip ‘because the people cannot be let down
Iraqi and Western security sources said that the contractor died of a heart attack. No other casualties have been reported in the attack.
The attack on US Troops stationed at the sprawling base is the fourth time in less than three weeks that rockets hit a Western installation in the country.
Ain al-Asad hosts both Iraqi forces and troops from the US-led coalition helping fight remnants of the Islamic State group – as well as the unmanned drones they use to surveil jihadist sleeper cells.
US Troops Stationed In Iraq Airbase Targeted
Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed that 10 rockets hit the base at 7:20 am (0420 GMT), but did not provide details on any casualties.
Iraqi security forces said they had found the platform from which 10 ‘Grad-type rockets’ hit the Ain al-Assad base.
Initial report: 10 IDF rockets targeted an Iraqi military base, Al Asad Airbase, hosting Coalition troops, on March 03, 2021 at approx 7:20 a.m. (Iraqi time). Iraqi SF are leading the response & investigation. Further information will be released as it becomes available.
— OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) March 3, 2021
Western security sources told AFP the rockets in today’s attack were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar strikes.
As of now, no group has taken credit for the airstrike,
Video of the launcher pic.twitter.com/EP9AYYpCLk
— Michael A. Horowitz (@michaelh992) March 3, 2021