Iran-Backed Militia Launches Suicide Drones at U.S. Base in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraq Attack
International Coalition via AP

Iran-backed Shiite militia forces in Iraq on Tuesday claimed credit for launching explosive-laden drones at bases housing U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, including a base near Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

“Three explosive-laden drones attacked a military base of the international coalition against the Islamic State in two separate instances,” the Kurdish Directorate-General of Counter-Terrorism (CTD) said in a statement on Tuesday morning about the Erbil attack.

According to CTD, two drones were intercepted in midair, and a third crashed without detonating.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI), an umbrella group of Iran-supported militia and terrorist groups, on Monday took credit for six drone attacks against four bases housing U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria.

The IRI said it targeted the base near Erbil International Airport, the Tel Baydar and al-Tanf bases in northeastern Syria, and Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s Anbar province. The latter has been a frequent target of Iranian proxy attacks. The IRI said it targeted Ain al-Asad with three separate drone attacks.

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. - Iran last week launched a wave of missiles at the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, both hosting US and other foreign troops, in retaliation for the US killing top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad on January 3. (Photo by Ayman HENNA / AFP) (Photo by AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

A picture taken on January 13, 2020, shows U.S. soldiers clearing rubble at Ain al-Asad military airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. (AYMAN HENNA/AFP via Getty Images)

As always, the IRI claimed all of its drones “directly hit” their targets.

Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said on Monday that U.S. forces at the Ain al-Asad airbase have been attacked 20 times since the middle of October, and the al-Tanf base in Syria has been attacked 18 times. 

The total number of attacks on U.S. forces since October 17 now stands at 38: 20 in Iraq plus 18 in Syria. Ryder said the tempo of the attacks increased significantly over the weekend.

Ryder updated previous reports by saying 45 U.S. service members were injured in the early attacks on October 17 and 18, a significant upward revision from the initial assessment that 21 were injured. Five of the injured have reported traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Two of the injured who were initially cleared to return to duty had to be sent to Germany for additional treatment, and both are reportedly in stable condition.

Ryder said he was aware of no further injuries after U.S. forces began conducting “self-defense strikes” against militia targets on October 26.

“We do see these harassing attacks by Iranian proxy groups in Iraq and Syria. And again, I’m not going to telegraph potential future operations on what we may or may not do, but again, we will make sure that we’re taking any necessary actions to protect our forces,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise trip to Baghdad on Sunday, where he met with Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani and stressed the need to halt attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq.

The State Department said Blinken urged Sudani to “hold accountable those responsible for continuing attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq and fulfill Iraq’s commitments to protect all installations hosting U.S. personnel at the invitation of the Iraqi government.”

Sudani hopped over to Tehran for a meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi the next day. After the meeting, Sudani declared Iraq and Iran have a “common position” in support of the Hamas terrorists and joined Raisi in accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.”

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Sudani described the Hamas atrocities of October 7 as a military “operation” and said it was justified by “years of criminal policies of the Zionist regime against the people of Gaza.”

According to Iranian state media, Sudani went further during his meeting with Raisi and praised the October 7 atrocities as a “heroic operation that brought happiness to all the free people of the world.”

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