Rockets hit base housing U.S. and coalition troops north of Baghdad

A barrage of rockets hit a base housing United States and other coalition troops north of Baghdad, Iraqi security officials said Saturday, just days after a similar attack, killing three soldiers, including two Americans.

At least two Iraqi soldiers were injured in the attack on Camp Taji, according to Iraqi officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.

Officials said more than a dozen rockets had fallen inside the base. Some struck the area where coalition forces are based, while others fell on a runway used by Iraqi forces.

There was no immediate comment from the coalition regarding Saturday’s attack.

The attack was unusual as it occurred during the day. Previous attacks on military bases housing American troops have generally occurred at night.

The previous rocket attack on Camp Taji on Wednesday also killed a British soldier. This sparked US airstrikes on Friday against what US officials said were primarily weapons facilities belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia group is believed to be responsible.

However, the Iraqi military said the air strikes killed five members of the security forces and one civilian, while injuring five combatants from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization including a range of militias, including groups supported by the ‘Iran.

Iranian-backed Shiite militias have vowed to take revenge on Friday’s US strikes, signaling another round of violence between Washington and Tehran that could take place in Iraq.

The murder of the Iraqi security forces by the United States could also give Iran-backed militias more reasons to launch counterattacks against American troops in Iraq, analysts said.

“We cannot forget that the PMF is a recognized entity within the Iraqi security forces; they are not isolated from the security forces and are often installed on the same bases or use the same facilities,” said Sajad Jiyad, researcher and former managing director of Bayan Center, a Baghdad-based think tank.

“Now the groups (supported by Iran) who supported the initial strike at Taji, who were the most outspoken, feel compelled, authorized, even legitimized to respond, ostensibly to protect Iraqi sovereignty but really to maintain pressure on the Americans, “he added.

“There are no more red lines,” said Jiyad.

Wednesday’s attack on Camp Taji was the deadliest to target American troops in Iraq since a rocket attack in late December on an Iraqi base, which killed an American contractor. The attack sparked a series of attacks that brought Iraq to the brink of war.

After the death of the entrepreneur, America launched air strikes against Kataib Hezbollah, which sparked demonstrations at the United States Embassy in Baghdad.

An American drone struck Baghdad and then killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander responsible for expeditionary operations in the wider Middle East. Iran responded with a ballistic missile attack on U.S. forces in Iraq, the Islamic Republic’s most direct attack on America since the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was taken in 1979.

The United States and Iran have withdrawn from further attacks after the Soleimani incident. A senior US official said in late January, when US-Iranian tensions had subsided, that the killing of the Americans was a red line that could spark more violence.

(AP)