By Jack Phillips
Iraqi officials said that rockets were fired at the Taji military base north of Baghdad on Jan. 14. No casualties were reported.
Katyusha rockets were fired and were “targeting the Taji training camp,” according to an afternoon statement from the Iraqi Security Media Cell, which falls under the responsibility of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office.
The statement didn’t elaborate on how many rockets were fired or who was responsible.
“No Coalition troops were affected by this small attack at Taji Base,” Col. Myles Caggins, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition, said in a statement.
The Taji camp, located about 50 miles north of the capital, is one of several in Iraq that house U.S.-led coalition forces that were deployed to defeat the ISIS terrorist group, which had ruled over swaths of Iraq and Syria.
An anonymous Iraqi army captain told the Anadolu Agency that the base had been targeted by at least two rockets.
استهداف معسكر تدريب التاجي شمالي العاصمة بغداد بصواريخ كاتيوشا، دون خسائر بشرية تذكر.
— خلية الإعلام الأمني
(@SecMedCell) January 14, 2020
Tensions are high in the Middle East after the United States carried out an airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in retaliation for an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad days before. Iran then fired a barrage of missiles at Iraqi bases holding U.S. troops during the following week, after which sanctions were levied against Tehran by the White House.
The latest rocket incident came just two days after an attack on the Balad Air Base in Iraq, which was condemned by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hours later.
“Outraged by reports of another rocket attack on an Iraqi airbase. I pray for speedy recovery of the injured and call on the Government of Iraq to hold those responsible for this attack on the Iraqi people accountable,” wrote Pompeo on Twitter on Jan. 12.
“These continued violations of Iraq’s sovereignty by groups not loyal to the Iraqi government must end.”
In that attack, Katyusha rockets were also launched, officials told Reuters.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told NPR on Jan. 13 that the United States has the constitutional authority to strike Iran-backed proxy militia groups in Iraq and Iran to retaliate against attacks on American forces.
“We hold Iran responsible for its proxies, and we will retain the right to exercise self-defense and take action where legally available and appropriate to hold those proxies accountable for their actions,” Esper told NPR in an interview.
Esper said the airstrike was carried out out of self-defense because Soleimani was plotting future attacks on U.S. assets.
“There was complete agreement based on what he had done and what he was planning to do, the broader attack that he was orchestrating in the region that would be bigger in scale and would likely result in open hostilities, that this was a compelling target to take out,” Esper said.
“The United States is safer today than we were a few weeks ago because we eliminated the world’s foremost terrorist, Qassem Soleimani, who has the blood of hundreds of American soldiers and Marines on his hands.”
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