WASHINGTON - Two Americans and a British servicemember are dead, with a dozen more wounded, after a barrage of rockets slammed into Camp Taji, a military base north of Baghdad that hosts coalition troops.
According to U.S. and Iraqi officials, the attack was carried out late Wednesday by militants using a modified truck to fire 30 Katyusha rockets, 18 of which hit the base.
The U.S. Central Command spokesman, Capt. Bill Urban, confirmed the deaths of the two U.S. servicemembers. A military official said the third fatality was from Britain.
Among the 12 wounded were U.S. and coalition troops, and a contractor.
Iraqi military officials, who were the first to share word of Wednesday’s rocket attack, tweeted photos of the abandoned truck, which they said was found nearby.
سقوط عشرة صواريخ كاتيوشا داخل معسكر التاجي بدون خسائر , تم العثور على عجلة نوع كيا بنكو تحمل منصة صواريخ فيها ثلاث صواريخ متبقية جنوب منطقة الراشدية. pic.twitter.com/onxirvQgTs— خلية الإعلام الأمني🇮🇶 (@SecMedCell) March 11, 2020
Iraq's presidency condemned the "terrorist attack" in a Thursday statement and stressed the need to find those responsible.
U.S. officials have so far declined to publicly assign blame for the attacks, saying the investigation is ongoing. However, a military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told VOA the U.S. believes Iranian-backed militias, known as popular mobilization units, are responsible.
It would not be the first time Iranian-backed militias in Iraq targeted U.S. and coalition forces, and Wednesday’s attack could signal the start of renewed hostilities.
In December, a similar attack by the Kataib Hezbollah militia killed a U.S. contractor at a base near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
The U.S. responded with a series of retaliatory strikes, culminating this past January with the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the Iran Quds Force commander who oversaw the militias, in a strike in Iraq.
Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at the al-Asad airbase, which hosts U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, causing more than 100 U.S. troops to suffer from traumatic brain injuries.
Since the Iranian missile attack, the Pentagon has been negotiating with the Iraqi government to send in Patriot missile defense batteries.
Appearing before U.S. lawmakers Tuesday, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. forces in the region, said the U.S. was “in the process of bringing in” the missile defense systems, and warned the threat from Tehran had not diminished.
“Ample intelligence indicates the [Iranian] regime’s desire to continue malign activities,” he said. “Going forward it is CENTCOM’s objective to posture forces in the region with the operational depth to achieve a consistent state of deterrence against Iran.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that a British soldier was killed in the attack, and said Britain was consulting with the U.S.
“Our servicemen and women work tirelessly every day to uphold security and stability in the region — their presence makes us all safer,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. “We will continue to liaise with our international partners to fully understand the details of this abhorrent attack.”
“Today’s deadly attack on Iraq’s Camp Taji military base will not be tolerated,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, added in a Tweet late Wednesday, saying the U.S. and Britain agree “those responsible must be held accountable.”
Today’s deadly attack on Iraq’s Camp Taji military base will not be tolerated. @DominicRaab and I agree – those responsible must be held accountable.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 12, 2020
There were also indications that retaliatory strikes might be underway.
Several reports from Syrian state media and social media accounts claimed unidentified planes hit a series of targets in Albukamal, Syria, near the border with Iraq.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the strikes targeted the headquarters of Iranian-backed militias, killing at least 18 people.
U.S. officials said they were aware of the reports but told Reuters the U.S. had not launched any strikes in the area at the time.
VOA's Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.