Several rockets hit the Iraqi air base, injuring two soldiers | Middle East News

At least five rockets target the Balad air base, north of Baghdad, which hosts US contractors and Iraqi security forces.

At least five rockets hit Iraqi military airbase at Balad north of Baghdad, injuring two Iraqi soldiers, the Iraqi military said in a statement.

Security officials had earlier said the Katyusha rockets fell on the area of ​​the base which is home to American contractors and no casualties were reported.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack, but armed groups which some Iraqi officials say are backed by Iran have claimed responsibility for similar incidents in the past.

US officials blamed Iranian-backed militias for regular rocket attacks targeting US facilities in Iraq, including the US embassy in Baghdad.

The last attack on Balad Air Base took place on April 4, when at least two rockets fell in the surrounding sparsely populated area.

F-16 planes are stationed at the air base and several maintenance companies are present there, employing Iraqi and foreign personnel.

The attack occurs a few days after a drone loaded with explosives targeted US-led coalition forces near an airport in northern Iraq, causing fire and damage to a building.

This incident was the latest in a series of attacks primarily targeting US facilities in Iraq in recent weeks.

There have been some 20 bomb or rocket attacks against US interests, including bases housing US soldiers, since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

Dozens more took place from fall 2019 under the administration of Donald Trump.

US forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, but returned in 2014 at the invitation of Iraq to help combat ISIS (ISIS) after the group seized large areas in the north and l west of the country.

At the end of 2020, the number of American troops in Iraq had been reduced to 2,500 after withdrawals on the orders of the Trump administration.

Calls increased for further US troop withdrawals after US-led drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia leader in Baghdad in January 2020.

Last month, a base in western Iraq housing US-led coalition troops and contractors was hit by 10 rockets. A contractor was killed.

Last week, the United States pledged to withdraw all remaining combat forces from Iraq, although the two countries have not set a timeline for what would be a second U.S. withdrawal since the 2003 invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein.

The announcement comes as the Biden administration has resumed a “strategic dialogue” with the government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, considered too close to Washington by pro-Iranian groups.

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