An American contractor suffered a “cardiac episode” and died while taking shelter from a rocket attack at an airbase in Iraq where U.S. troops have been staying.
While no one has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, military officials believe it was in retaliation for an attack on bases in Syria being used by militias backed by Iran.
Military sources say about 10 rockets struck the Ain al-Asad base in Anbar province. The Patriot batteries were not engaged.
Iraqi sources say they found the launching pad for the rockets in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar.
The Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets: a burned-out truck. It was discovered in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar, about five miles from the base, an Iraqi military official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the attack with the media.
Video of the site shows a burning medium-sized truck in a desert area.
The base hit Wednesday was the same one targeted last February in an attack that left about 100 troops with head injuries. Patriot missiles were installed at the base after that attack.
That attack last year was in retaliation for the killing of General Qassim Soleimani and brought the two nations close to war.
Wednesday’s attack targeted the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of missiles in January last year in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. Dozens of U.S. service members were injured, suffering concussions in that strike. Asthe strike was the largest ever ballistic missile attack against Americans.
His report for “60 Minutes” gave a first-time look at drone video of the attack and he spoke with some of the American troops who were there on the night that brought the U.S. and Iran closer than ever to all-out war.
Pope Francis announced that he would still make his historic trip to Iraq later this week despite the rocket attack.
Security is a concern for the March 5-8 visit, given the continued presence of rogue Shiite militias and fresh rocket attacks. Francis, who relishes plunging into crowds and zipping around in his popemobile, is expected to travel in an armored car with a sizeable security detail. The Vatican hopes the measures will have the dual effect of protecting the pope while discouraging contagion-inducing crowds.
Francis’ visit is the culmination of two decades of efforts to bring a pope to the birthplace of Abraham, the prophet central to Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, after St. John Paul II was prevented from going in 1999.
“We can’t disappoint this people a second time,” Francis said Wednesday in urging prayers for the trip.
The Vatican made very little outcry while Christians were being slaughtered all over the Middle East, so Christians shouldn’t expect this pope to say much against the Shias who have helped marginalize Christian communities in Iraq and elsewhere. Nor will Francis even mention the fanatics from Islamic State who routinely beheaded Christians and burned them.