A barrage of rockets hit a base housing the U.S. and other coalition troops north of Baghdad on Saturday, Iraqi security officials said, just days after a similar attack killed three servicemen, including two Americans.
The U.S.-led coalition said at least 25 107mm rockets struck Camp Taji just before 11 a.m. Some struck the area where coalition forces are based, while others fell on air defence units, the Iraqi military statement said.
Five coalition members and two Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the attack at Camp Taji, according to a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition Myles Caggins. The nationalities of the wounded coalition members were not immediately known.
A statement from Iraq’s military said the “brutal aggression” wounded a number of air defence personnel who remain in critical condition, but did not provide a number.
Iraqi forces later discovered seven platforms from which the rockets were in the Abu Azam area, north of Baghdad. Another 24 missiles were discovered in place and ready to launch.
The attack was unusual because it occurred during the day. Previous assaults on military bases housing U.S. troops typically occurred at night.
The earlier rocket attack against Camp Taji on Wednesday also killed a British serviceman. It prompted American airstrikes Friday against what U.S. officials said were mainly weapons facilities belonging to Kataib Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia group believed to be responsible.
However, Iraq’s military said those airstrikes killed five security force members and a civilian, while wounding five fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization including an array of militias, including some Iran-backed groups.
Iran-backed Shiite militia groups vowed to exact revenge for Friday’s U.S. strikes, signalling another cycle of tit-for-tat violence between Washington and Tehran that could play out inside Iraq.
Iraq’s military also cautioned the U.S. from taking retaliating as it did on Friday without taking approval from the government. Taking unilateral action would “not limit these actions, but rather nurtures them, weakens the ability of the Iraqi state,” the statement said.
America’s killing of Iraqi security forces might also give Iran-backed militia groups more reason to stage counterattacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, analysts said.
“We can’t forget that the PMF is a recognized entity within the Iraqi security forces; they aren’t isolated from the security forces and often are co-located on the same bases or use the same facilities,” said Sajad Jiyad, a researcher and former managing director of the Bayan Center, a Baghdad-based think tank.