At least 10 rockets hit al-Asad airbase in Iraq, which houses US forces, a Sunni commander of the paramilitary forces in a nearby town told CNN.
The attack comes days after the US killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The administration has sought to cast that strike as an attempt to de-escalate tensions with Iran, but Tehran has vowed revenge for the killing, which it says was an “act of war” and “state terrorism.”
Qatri al-Obeidi, a commander in the nearby town of al-Baghdadi, said that the shelling has stopped for now. President Donald Trump visited the base in December 2018 to visit troops after Christmas. Vice President Mike Pence also visited the base in November 2019. The attack follows last week’s deadly US drone strike that Trump ordered to kill Soleimani.
A US defense official confirmed to CNN that there has been some sort of attack on the base. The official did not have any more details as of Tuesday evening.
Iranian state TV reported that the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, “has hit U.S. Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq with tens of missiles.” The IRGC warned the US of of more “crushing responses in case of new aggression,” according to state TV. The IRGC said it will target any regional state that becomes a platform for US aggression, a second banner on state TV read.
CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that US forces and air-defense missile batteries across the Middle East were placed on high alert overnight Monday to possibly shoot down Iranian drones as intelligence mounted about a threat of an imminent attack against US targets, according to two US officials.
CNN reported on Friday that part of the intelligence that led to the decision to kill Soleimani included threats to al-Asad air base.
A source familiar with the intelligence showed the vehicle mounted rockets, known as Grad trucks, and other military weaponry were moving closer to US interests, particularly the al-Asad air base, CNN reported.
Other targets of concern included the US air base in Qatar and US interests in Kuwait. The source noted on Friday that these threats have existed for several months but that the intelligence indicated growing urgency because of how close the missile trucks were getting to US interests.
The attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN Tuesday that the US is not seeking a war with Iran but it is “prepared to finish one.”
“We are not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one,” Esper said during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Trump was briefed on the reports of rocket attacks, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.
“We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team,” Grisham said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was discussing the situation in Iran when she was handed a note with news of the attack, lawmakers who attended the meeting said.
Rep. Dan Kildee, a Michigan Democrat, said she paused the discussion to tell the members of the Steering Committee of the news.
“Pray,” Pelosi told members, according to Rep. Debbie Dingell.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.