A barrage of rockets have struck the Ain al-Assad air base hosting American forces in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.
The Security Media Cell, affiliated with the Iraqi prime minister’s office, announced in a statement that 10 Grad rockets had struck the base, located about 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, on Wednesday morning.
The statement added that security forces had found the launch pad for the projectiles, and further details about the incident would be provided later.
The attack took place at 7:20 am (0420 GMT), coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed.
Iraqi and Western security sources said a contractor with the US-led military coalition died of a heart attack during the rocket attack. His nationality has not been unveiled.
Sabereen News, a Telegram news channel associated with Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units, reported that C-RAM systems as well as Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) missile systems deployed at the base were not able to intercept the rockets.
According to the report, a number of US military aircraft as well as Spanish choppers could be seen flying over the Hit district, where the air base is located, in the aftermath of the rocket attack.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet, which is the latest in a series of assaults that have targeted US positions in Iraq over the past few months.
Witnesses said a thick column of smoke could be seen billowing from flames in the base.
The raid comes days after the US military conducted an air raid on positions belonging to the forces of the PMU, better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, on the Iraqi-Syrian border, where they were engaged in fighting the remnants of the Takfiri Daesh terror group.
The Iraqi counter-terrorism force pledged retaliation, prompting the US military forces to go on high alert and adopt maximum security measures in anticipation of a response.
The US raid was said to be a response to recent attacks on its military base in Erbil and its mission in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which Washington blames on Iraq’s Kata’ib Hezbollah, a claim rejected by the Hash al-Sha’abi faction.
On Saturday, a roadside bomb struck a convoy of trucks belonging to the US-led coalition forces as it was moving along al-Diwaniyah highway in Iraq’s central province of al-Qadisiyah. The blast damaged a vehicle and wounded an Iraqi guard.
There has been a spike in attacks on US military bases and diplomatic missions amid anti-US sentiment over the assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad early last year.
General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, were targeted along with their companions on January 3, 2020 in a drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport. https://if-cdn.com/8iDhXyu?v=1&app=1
On January 8, 2020, the IRGC launched a missile attack on the US-run Ain al-Assad air base in retaliation. Washington put a lid on the true number of casualties as well as the extent of material damage caused to the base, which was reported to be immense.
According to the Pentagon, more than 100 American forces suffered “traumatic brain injuries” during the counterstrike on the base. The IRGC, however, says Washington uses the term to mask the number of Americans who perished during the retaliation.
Iran has described the missile attack on Ain al-Assad air base as a “first slap” in its “harsh revenge.”