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4 Iraqi troops wounded by rocket attack at Balad air base

BAGHDAD — Four members of Iraq’s military were wounded Sunday in a rocket attack targeting an air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers were present until recently, Iraqi security officials said.

The attack by at least six rockets came just days after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq that house U.S. forces, causing no casualties.

There are no Americans currently at Balad air base and there were none during the the attack, according to a coalition spokesperson. The base had hosted American trainers, advisers and a company that provides maintenance services for F-16 aircraft, according to an Iraqi defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Though it appears Iran is standing down from continued missile attacks on targets in Iraq, Shia militias remain a potential threat there. (Mohammed Sawaf/AFP via Getty Images)
Rockets slam Baghdad’s Green Zone

The latest attack raises concerns of Iran-backed militias orchestrating attacks that could push the U.S. into a broader conflict with Iran — especially as tensions with Iran remain on edge following Tehran’s launch of 16 ballistic missiles targeting coalition troops housed at the al-Asad and Irbil Iraqi bases.

Recent heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran were sparked last month when a rocket attack killed an American contractor at a base in Iraq. The U.S. has blamed that attack and others on Iran-backed militias.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet Sunday that he was"outraged" by the attacks.

"Outraged by reports of another rocket attack on an Iraqi airbase," he tweeted. "I pray for the speed recovery of the injured and call on the government of Iraq to hold those responsible for these attacks accountable."

"These continued violations of Iraq's sovereignty by groups not loyal to the Iraqi government must end," he added.

Sunday's attack wounded an Iraqi air force officer and three enlisted men, Iraqi security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Some rockets fell on a restaurant inside the airbase, the officials said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The base is located some 50 miles (80 kilometers) miles north of Baghdad.

A statement from the Iraqi army's official media office confirmed the attack but said eight rockets hit the base, and that two officers had been wounded. The difference in accounts could no immediately be reconciled.

The U.S. and Iran recently stepped back from escalating tensions following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. A senior Iraqi leader of an Iran-backed militia was also killed.

Iran’s retaliatory attack for Soleimani’s death hit two Iraqi bases, Ain al-Asad and Irbil, where American troops are based.

The limited Iranian strikes appeared to be mainly a show of force, and deescalated tensions that had threatened to turn Iraq into a proxy battlefield.

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