Iran-Backed Militias Launch Rocket and Drone Attacks on U.S. Forces in Iraq

A worker cleans shattered glass on February 16, 2021 outside a damaged shop following a ro
SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty , file

Rocket and drone attacks on Thursday targeted military bases in Iraq that host U.S. and coalition forces.

The attacks were an apparent effort by Iran-controlled Shiite militias to make good on their threats to attack American interests if the U.S. continues to support Israel against the terrorists of Hamas.

Reports documented multiple explosions at the Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western Anbar province, including detonations inside the perimeter of the base. At least two rockets were also fired at a base housing U.S. forces near Baghdad’s international airport.

There was no immediate report of casualties from Ain al-Asad. An American official told Reuters one of the rockets fired at the Baghdad airport base was intercepted, and the other struck an empty storage facility, so there were no casualties from that attack.

Wednesday also saw two attacks against Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces, both involving drones. Pentagon officials said the force stationed at al-Asad was able to intercept two suicide drones launched against the airbase on Wednesday. The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said a third drone launched against a position in northern Iraq was “engaged and destroyed” without “injuries or damage.”

However, the Pentagon told reporters on Thursday that a civilian military contractor in Iraq died from cardiac arrest during a false alarm at the al-Asad airbase. A source at the base told the New York Post (NYP) on Wednesday that a few soldiers were injured, including “possible traumatic brain injuries,” and some equipment was damaged when the intercepted drone still managed to detonate near a hangar.

File/A picture taken on January 13, 2020 during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows US soldiers clearing rubble at Ain al-Asad military airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. (AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

Iranian media hyped all four attacks over the last two days – implicitly inspired by the false Hamas claim, credulously repeated and amplified by much of the U.S. media, that Israel targeted a hospital in Gaza and caused massive civilian casualties – as causing much more damage than the Pentagon was prepared to admit.

On Friday, Iran’s PressTV claimed “explosions were heard near the U.S.-run Victoria military base” at the Baghdad airport, which was supposedly hit by three rockets instead of two.

PressTV cited Syrian state media reports that a U.S. military base in southern Syria was also attacked with drones on Thursday, while rockets struck the al-Omar oil field and a gas line in Dayr al-Zawr province early on Friday morning.

A group in Iraq called Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (HHN) claimed responsibility for the attack on Ain al-Asad, and promised more “surprises against American interests as Israeli aggression against the besieged Gaza Strip is poised to escalate,” according to PressTV.

HHN is an Iran-backed militia founded in 2013 that claims all American soldiers in Iraq are legitimate targets for its cowardly attacks. The group has vowed to continue launching such attacks until all U.S. personnel are withdrawn from Iraq.

File/A picture taken on January 13, 2020, during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows a member the US forces walking past a drone in the Ain al-Asad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. ( YMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The NYP quoted a “largely unheard-of group” called Tashkil al-Waritheen (“The Inheritor”) taking responsibility for a thwarted drone attack against the al-Harir base in Erbil, Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials said the drone involved in that incident never got close to its target, instead crashing in the desert near a village called Batas.

Tashkil al-Waritheen is also an Iran-backed Shiite militia group, one that has operated under the direct command of the Qods Force, the foreign terrorism unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The group was apparently established by the IRGC sometime in 2020 to conduct politically deniable terrorist attacks at the behest of Iran. The IRGC itself is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

In one of its first public statements, Tashkil al-Waritheen vowed to avenge “the assassination of the martyred leaders,” referring to IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani and his protege, Iraqi Shiite militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were both liquidated by a U.S. airstrike in January 2020 after coordinating attacks on bases housing American forces in Iraq.

Another claim of responsibility for the attacks on Wednesday and Thursday was made by “The Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” an umbrella group of Iran-backed Shiite militias. The group said Thursday’s attack “heralds more operations” against “the American occupation.”

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed “the targets were hit directly and precisely” in all of its attacks.


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