BAGHDAD (Reuters) – American forces were attacked at an air base west of Baghdad on Tuesday, and a US military plane responded in self-defense, killing a number of Iran-backed militants, US officials said.
Two US officials said that the Ain al-Asad air base was attacked by a close-range ballistic missile, wounding eight people and causing minor damage to infrastructure.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the United States responded using an AC-130 aircraft that was already in the air and hit an Iranian-backed militia vehicle and a number of individuals involved in the attack.
She added that the plane was able to determine the starting point and hit the militants because they were able to monitor their movements.
This is the first public retaliation on Iraqi soil in response to recent missile and drone attacks on US forces, but Singh said there have been previous responses that have not yet been announced.
The United States has so far limited its response to the 66 attacks against its forces in Iraq and neighboring Syria, for which Iraqi factions allied with Iran have claimed responsibility, to three separate sets of strikes in Syria.
At least 62 US soldiers suffered minor injuries or traumatic brain injuries in the attacks.
The attacks began on October 17 and Iraqi armed groups linked them to American support for Israel in its bombing of Gaza following attacks launched by the Palestinian Hamas movement on Israel.
The attacks on American targets ended a year-long unilateral truce declared with Washington by Iraqi factions, some of which formed in the wake of the American invasion in 2003 to fight American forces, and others in 2014 to fight ISIS.
Social media accounts linked to Iraqi factions allied with Iran published a statement under the name “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” mourning a member they said was killed in battle against American forces on Tuesday, without going into details.
His death is the first publicly announced casualty in Iraq linked to the Gaza war, which has drawn in other factions in Iran’s network of regional militias known as the Axis of Resistance, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The United States has 900 soldiers in Syria and 2,500 soldiers in Iraq on a mission that it says aims to provide advice and assistance to local forces trying to prevent the return of ISIS, which in 2014 took control of large areas of territory in the two countries before its defeat.
(Reporting by Taymour Azhari in Baghdad and Phil Stewart and Ali Idris in Washington – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arab Bulletin) Writing by Taymour Azhari; Edited by Andrew Heavens, Alexandra Hudson, Chizuo Nomiyama, and Mark Porter
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National Security Correspondent focuses on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., reporting on U.S. military activities and operations around the world and their impact. He has reported from more than twenty countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, much of the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.
Phil Stewart has reported from more than 60 countries, including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and South Sudan. An award-winning national security correspondent based in Washington, Phil has appeared on NPR, the PBS NewsHour, Fox News and other programs and has moderated national security events, including the Reagan National Defense Forum and the German Marshall Fund. He received the Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence and the Joe Galloway Award.
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