Two rockets struck a training base south of Baghdad where U.S.-led coalition troops and NATO trainers are present, Iraq’s military said in a statement on Tuesday.
The rockets hit the Basmaya base outside of Baghdad on Monday evening. They impacted near a factory and what was described as agricultural land, but not where any troops were housed. The statement provided no further details.
This is the third attack on coalition troops in the past week. Since the end of October last year, there have been 24 rocket attacks on either the U.S. embassy in Baghdad or bases where coalition troops are deployed. These attacks on Iraqi sovereignty have killed three American military personnel, one female British soldier and one Iraqi soldier.
No one has claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks. However, the U.S. has blamed Kata’ib Hizbollah, an Iranian-led militia part of the Hashd al-Shaabi PMF (Popular Mobilization Forces).
The areas surrounding these PMF militias began to be plastered with PMF flags and billboards picturing Iran’s supreme leader, a man some PMF groups think of as their religious leader and commander, late last year just when the attacks started.
“We will make them leave if they don’t want to leave,” a Kata’ib Hizbollah commander, who called himself Abu Ameneh, told the BBC in an interview.
The base at Basmaya houses Spanish coalition troops as well as NATO trainers. The coalition hasn’t yet published a statement or given any casualty reports.
Last week, a large rocket attack struck Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, killing two Americans and a British servicewoman. Wednesday’s attack was followed by another on Saturday, also at Taji, which wounded five troops, three coalition members and two Iraqi soldiers.
The initial attack saw the Americans retaliate with large airstrikes against weapons facilities belonging to Kata’ib Hizbollah, which they claim to have been responsible. A U.S. military spokesman said that the ISIS fighters, which the coalition is fighting, do not have the capability to launch those types of attacks. In a tit-for-tat exchange, the Iranian proxy Shiite militia groups vowed to exact revenge against the coalition and indeed coalition bases were hit on Saturday and today.
Iraq’s military said that the coalition’s airstrikes also killed five security force members and a civilian while wounding five members of the Popular Mobilization Forces. Iraq summoned the American and British ambassadors to the Foreign Ministry over the airstrike, while vowing to investigate the rocket attacks.
The U.S. is pulling out of three of its bases in Iraq, as the Iranian militia presence has forced its hand. The base at al-Qaim has been a source of irritation between the U.S. and the Iranian proxies.
The U.S. also plans to pull the troops from Qayara Airfield West, known as Q-West, and Kirkuk. Qayara was the base that the United States staged from to take back Mosul from ISIS. Not so coincidentally, both bases have been hit by rocket attacks in recent months. A U.S. contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Kirkuk late in December.
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