A year and two months after Iran used ballistic missiles to attack the massive al-Asad air base in Iraq, where US troops are located, a dozen rockets were reportedly fired at the same base.
It would be an unusual attack because the base is rarely targeted and it reportedly had Patriot air defense installed last year after the Iranian threats. A recent 60 Minutes report detailed the trauma suffered by those on the base in the January 2020 attack.
US-led coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto wrote online that an initial report says 10 rockets targeted an Iraqi military base hosting coalition troops on March 3. Iraqi Special Operation Forces are leading the response, he noted.
Kurdistan24 and Rudaw, both media in the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, reported the attack. One called it an “apparent” attack as they sought to investigate the developing story. The report at Rudaw said that 10 rockets had hit the base. Telegram channels also were sourced as evidence that the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization Forces had been linked to the attack.
Iraqi security sources were quoted at Arab News confirming the attack. Reuters, which also reported the rockets falling, is apparently the source for the Iraqi security sources confirming the incident.
A photo of a truck circulated on Iraqi media showing the alleged launcher. This appeared larger than the usual 107-mm. rocket launchers used by the pro-Iranian paramilitaries to target US forces over the last two years. These attacks have resulted in casualties in the past.
A contractor was killed at K-1 in December 2019 and several coalition personnel were killed at Camp Taji in March 2020. On February 15 a contractor was killed and others wounded in Erbil. In September, a 122 Grad rocket launcher was used in the Nineveh plains to also target Erbil’s airport where US forces are located. The rocket launcher used recently on March 3 appears to be a larger, 122-mm. Grad-style launcher. Online reports appeared to confirm that the rockets were Iranian-made Arash-4 rockets.
A mysterious Twitter user who often reports Iranian-backed threats and attacks before they happen wrote on February 21 that 107-mm. rockets might be used against al-Asad base. The US retaliated on February 26 in Syria for the Erbil rocket attack and another in Baghdad on February 22.
Pro-Iranian militias have targeted US forces dozens of times since May 2019. The US withdrew from a half-dozen bases in 2020 due to the threats, consolidating forces in al-Asad, Baghdad and Erbil.
It is unclear why air defense at the base did not intercept the rockets – and if it did, we are awaiting videos and confirmation.