America won't 'shy away' from responding to attack on US base in Iraq, Pentagon warns as officials say rocket strike 'fits the profile' of an Iran-backed militia

 The United States has shown that it won't 'shy away' from responding to attacks against its personnel when necessary, the Pentagon said on Wednesday after a rocket attack against Iraq's Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts US coalition and Iraqi forces. 

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, during which a US national who was working as a civilian contractor died after suffering a heart attack while taking shelter. No other casualties were reported.

The Pentagon said the attack fit the profile of previous assaults by 'Shia-backed militias' in the area but that it was too early to attribute responsibility.


'Let's do this the right way. Let's let our Iraqi partners investigate this, see what they learned,' Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing, describing the attack as a 'troubling development'.

'And then, if a response is warranted, I think we have shown clearly that we won't shy away from that. But we're just not there yet,' Kirby added, firmly declining to speculate about whether a response was likely.

When asked if the attack may have come from Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Kirby said he could not attribute responsibility for the attack yet.

However he acknowledged, during a Pentagon briefing, that 'we have seen rocket attacks come from Shia-backed militia groups in the past. So in that way, certainly it [Wednesday's attack] certainly coincides with our past experience here.' 

The United States has shown that it won't 'shy away' from responding to attacks against its personnel when necessary, the Pentagon said on Wednesday after a rocket attack against Iraq's Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts US coalition and Iraqi forces. Pictures circulating on social media purportedly show the burnt out truck that was used to launch the attack

The United States has shown that it won't 'shy away' from responding to attacks against its personnel when necessary, the Pentagon said on Wednesday after a rocket attack against Iraq's Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts US coalition and Iraqi forces. Pictures circulating on social media purportedly show the burnt out truck that was used to launch the attack

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby (pictured) told a briefing that 'Shia-backed militias' had been behind other rocket attacks in the area, saying: 'So in that way, certainly it [Wednesday's attack] certainly coincides with our past experience here' [File photo]

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby (pictured) told a briefing that 'Shia-backed militias' had been behind other rocket attacks in the area, saying: 'So in that way, certainly it [Wednesday's attack] certainly coincides with our past experience here' [File photo]

At least 10 rockets slammed into the base in Iraq's western Anbar province during Wednesday's attack, which began at around 7.20am local time
Footage shared online purported to show some of the damage from the strikes

At least 10 rockets slammed into the base in Iraq's western Anbar province during Wednesday's attack, which began at around 7.20am local time. Footage shared online purported to show some of the damage from the strikes

At least 10 rockets slammed into the base in Iraq's western Anbar province during Wednesday's attack, which began at around 7.20am local time.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the first strike since the US bombed Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week in attacks that killed 22 people, according to a war monitor, prompting concerns the new strike could be retaliatory action by Iran or an associated militia group.


Ain al-Asad is the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January of last year in retaliation for the death of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq. Dozens of US service members suffered concussions in the Iranian attack on the base.  

Heightened tensions between the US and Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq could lead to more attacks, complicating the Biden administration's desire to open talks with Iran over the 2015 nuclear deal, as well as the ongoing US strategy to focus more attention on Asia.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Pentagon confirmed the nationality of the civilian contractor who died, saying: 'There are no current reports of US servicemember injuries and all are accounted for. 

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'A US civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.'  

Tensions between the US and Iran have been escalating in recent years, particularly during former president Donald Trump's four years in the White House, exacerbated by the assassination of Soleimani last year. 

The attack 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, Pope Francis said that he would still make the trip 'because the people cannot be let down'. 

Asked about the attack, President Joe Biden told reporters, 'we are following that through right now.' He added, 'Thank God, no one was killed by the rocket, but one individual, a contractor, died of a heart attack. But we´re identifying who´s responsible and we´ll make judgments' about a response.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that the 'calculated' U.S. airstrikes last week could be a model for a military response. Those strikes were in response to an attack on American forces in northern Iraq earlier in February.

'If we assess further response is warranted, we will take action again in a manner and time of our choosing,' Psaki said.

Western security sources told AFP that the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in other attacks on Western targets in Iraq. Pictures online purportedly show the vehicle that was used to launch the strikes

Western security sources told AFP that the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in other attacks on Western targets in Iraq. Pictures online purportedly show the vehicle that was used to launch the strikes

Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq - which hosts US, coalition and Iraqi forces - was hit by at least 10 rockets on Wednesday. One casualty has been reported

Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq - which hosts US, coalition and Iraqi forces - was hit by at least 10 rockets on Wednesday. One casualty has been reported

Wednesday's attack on the sprawling base is the fourth time in less than three weeks that rockets have hit a Western installation in Iraq. 

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. 

Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed that 10 rockets hit the base at 7.20am (4.20am GMT).

Iraqi security forces said they had found the platform from which 10 'Grad-type rockets' were fired at the Ain al-Asad base. 

Western security sources told AFP news agency on Wednesday that the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in similar strikes. 

British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned the attack, saying it undermined the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group. 'Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government,' he tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for IS. 'These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilize Iraq.'

Denmark said coalition forces at the base were helping to bring stability and security to the country.

'Despicable attacks against Ain al-Asad base in #Iraq are completely unacceptable,' Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces said two Danes who were at the base at the time of the attack are unharmed.

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 assassination of General Qassem Soleimani (pictured in 2016) last year, on Trump's orders

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 assassination of General Qassem Soleimani (pictured in 2016) last year, on Trump's orders

The rocket strike is the latest attack on US forces in Iraq by Iran-backed militias, though nobody has claimed responsibility. Ain al-Asad has also been attacked by ISIS in the past

The rocket strike is the latest attack on US forces in Iraq by Iran-backed militias, though nobody has claimed responsibility. Ain al-Asad has also been attacked by ISIS in the past

Dozens of rocket attacks and roadside bombs targeted Western security, military and diplomatic sites in Iraq in 2020, with Iraqi and Western military sources blaming hardline pro-Iran factions.

They came to a near-complete halt in October following a truce with the hardliners, but have resumed at a quickening pace over the past three weeks.

In mid-February, rockets targeted US-led coalition troops in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil, a US military contracting company working north of the capital and the US embassy in Baghdad.

The US responded on February 26 with an air strike on Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary force stationed along the Iraqi-Syrian border. 

Twenty-two people were killed when seven 500lbs bombs were dropped on a compound used by two Iranian-backed Shia militia groups in the first Biden-authorized airstrike. 

Military sources said the airstrike was intended to 'draw a line' after a series of attacks on US positions in Iraq.

The compound in Syria had been used by militants to smuggle weapons across the border and into Iraq, the US said. 

On February 15, a volley of rockets fell within the grounds of Erbil's international airport and in residential parts of the city.

A contractor was killed and several US personnel and Iraqi civilians were wounded in the attack.

The Green Zone in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, where the American embassy is located, has been a regular target for mortar and rocket fire.  

Ain al-Asad air base is the second largest airbase established during US occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011.

It came under attack by Iran last year following the drone strike ordered by President Trump which killed Soleimani and commander of the Kateab Hezbollah militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Iran fired 15 Fateh-313 missiles at two US bases in Iraq following the assassination: Ain al-Asad and another facility in Erbil.

Ten of the rockets hit the US airbase and one landed at the Erbil facility, while four failed in flight, American military sources said at the time.

No US troops were killed in that attack but 109 were later diagnosed with brain injuries from the force of the explosions.

It is not yet clear who was behind Wednesday's rocket attack. 

The base has also come under attack from ISIS militants in the past.

Pope Francis has insisted that his visit to Iraq, which is due to take place at the end of the week, will go ahead as planned despite a rocket attack on US forces in the country on Wednesday

Pope Francis has insisted that his visit to Iraq, which is due to take place at the end of the week, will go ahead as planned despite a rocket attack on US forces in the country on Wednesday

The last major attack on Ain al-Asad came last year when Iran hit the base with 10 missiles in revenge for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani. 109 soldiers suffered brain injuries

The last major attack on Ain al-Asad came last year when Iran hit the base with 10 missiles in revenge for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani. 109 soldiers suffered brain injuries


America won't 'shy away' from responding to attack on US base in Iraq, Pentagon warns as officials say rocket strike 'fits the profile' of an Iran-backed militia America won't 'shy away' from responding to attack on US base in Iraq, Pentagon warns as officials say rocket strike 'fits the profile' of an Iran-backed militia Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:18 Rating: 5

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