(Corrects in paragraph 8 that attacks were against bases hosting U.S. forces, not against U.S. bases) By Ahmed Rasheed and Suleiman Al-Khalidi BAGHDAD/AMMAN (Reuters) -At least 14 rockets hit an Iraqi air base hosting U.S. and other international forces on Wednesday, wounding two American service members, U.S. officials said, while Kurdish-led forces in Syria said […]
Rockets hit Iraqi base housing U.S. forces, wounding two Americans -officials
(Corrects in paragraph 8 that attacks were against bases hosting U.S. forces, not against U.S. bases)
By Ahmed Rasheed and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
BAGHDAD/AMMAN (Reuters) -At least 14 rockets hit an Iraqi air base hosting U.S. and other international forces on Wednesday, wounding two American service members, U.S. officials said, while Kurdish-led forces in Syria said they thwarted a drone attack in an area where U.S. forces also operate.
While there were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks – part of a wave targeting U.S. troops or areas where they are based in Iraq and Syria – analysts believed they were part of a campaign by Iranian-backed militias.
Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran vowed to retaliate after U.S. strikes on the Iraqi-Syrian border killed four of their members last month.
Two people were slightly wounded in the rocket attack on the Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq, said coalition spokesman U.S. Army Colonel Wayne Marotto. The rockets landed on the base and its perimeter. He earlier said three people were wounded.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two personnel injured were U.S. service members. One suffered a concussion and the other had minor cuts, one of the officials added.
In Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said no damage was done by the drone attack on the Al Omar oil field in an eastern area bordering Iraq where U.S. forces came under rocket fire but escaped injury on June 28.
The Pentagon said a drone had been brought down in eastern Syria and that no U.S. service members had been injured and there had not been any damage.
Iraqi army officials said the pace of recent attacks against bases hosting U.S. forces with rockets and explosive-laden drones was unprecedented.
Iraqi military sources said a rocket launcher fixed on the back of a truck was used in Wednesday’s attack and was found on nearby farmland set on fire.
On Tuesday, a drone attacked Erbil airport in northern Iraq, targeting a U.S. base on the airport grounds, Kurdish security sources said.
Three rockets also landed on Ain al-Asad on Monday without causing casualties.
The United States has been holding indirect talks with Iran aimed at bringing both nations back into compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was abandoned by then-President Donald Trump. No date has been set for a next round of the talks, which adjourned on June 20.
Hamdi Malik, an associate fellow at the Washington Institute and a specialist on Iraq’s Shi’ite militias, said the attacks were part of a coordinated escalation by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
The attempt to strike in eastern Syria appeared to be the first example of operations being carried out simultaneously in both countries.
“It seems to me they have the green light from Iran to escalate, especially given that the nuclear negotiations are not going well. But at the same time, they do not want to escalate beyond a certain point – they are more vulnerable to U.S. air strikes than they used to be – and they don’t want to overcomplicate the negotiations Iran is holding with the West.”
The United States told the U.N. Security Council last week that it targeted Iranian-backed militia in Syria and Iraq with air strikes to deter them and Tehran from conducting or supporting further attacks on U.S. personnel or facilities.
Iran denied supporting attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria and condemned U.S. air strikes on Iranian-backed groups.
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman. Additional reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood, Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)