An unspecified number of U.S. military personnel were injured in a Saturday attack by Iranian-backed militants on an airbase in western Iraq, authorities said.
The attack on the Al-Assad airbase occurred at about 6:30 p.m. Baghdad time (10:30 am EST) and involved the use of ballistic missiles and rockets, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. The air defense system intercepted most, but not all, of the missiles, according to the statement.
Iranian-backed Militants Attack Al-Assad Airbase, Iraq
At approximately 6:30 p.m. (Baghdad time) time Jan. 20, multiple ballistic missiles and rockets were launched by Iranian-backed militants in Western Iraq targeting al-Assad Airbase. Most of the missiles were intercepted by… pic.twitter.com/rYaNrRdRtu
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 20, 2024
“A number of U.S. personnel are undergoing evaluation for traumatic brain injuries. At least one Iraqi service member was wounded,” the statement noted.
The attack came hours after CENTCOM reported its forces destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile being prepared to launch into the Gulf of Aden, which posed a threat to merchant and naval ships in the area. CENTCOM seized a vessel Jan. 11 transporting weapons from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen, a statement noted.
The attack also followed reports by Iran’s state media of the deaths of five Iranian military advisers in an Israeli airstrike in Syria. In a separate attack, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed to have destroyed what it described as “the center of the Zionist regime’s Mossad spy agency” in Erbil, Iraq, using ballistic missiles. The U.S. Consulate in Erbil reportedly was not affected.
The attack is the 144th — and one of the largest — on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023 terror attack on Israel, the second in which Iran-linked militias have used ballistic missiles, CBS News reported.
The Al-Assad airbase was previously attacked in October 2023, with U.S. forces stationed there destroying two drones and damaging a third. A number of troops sustained minor injuries, Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Patrick Ryder said.
Shia militia groups under the collective title Islamic Resistance in Iraq have grown in strength over the past decade and attacked U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since the Oct. 7, 2023 attack, CNN reported. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also spoke of a regional Axis of Resistance in his condemnation of Israel and other “hegemonic countries led by the [U.S.],” Iran’s state media reported.