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Iran Launches Missile Strikes At U.S. Troops In Iraq, Casualties Unclear


Source: RFE/RL

Iran has carried out a ballistic-missile attack against U.S. forces stationed in Iraq in retaliation for the killing last week of a prominent Iranian military commander. Iranian state television said Iran had fired 15 missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq early on January 8. The U.S. military said at least two Iraqi facilities hosting U.S.-led coalition personnel were targeted in the overnight attack. It is unclear if there have been any casualties.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for the attacks, Iranian state television and state news agencies reported.

The IRGC said the attack was in retaliation for the killing of IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, who died in a U.S. air strike last week in Baghdad.

The attack on the Ain Assad base, which hosts U.S. troops, was "a total success by all accounts," the IRGC said.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after the missile attacks: "All is well!" adding, "So far, so good" regarding casualties.

Trump said he would make a statement on January 8.

"We are aware of the reports of attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq," the White House told reporters according to a media pool report. "The president [Donald Trump] has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national-security team."

Iranian state television claimed, without offering evidence, that the strikes killed "at least 80 terrorist U.S soldiers" and also damaged helicopters, drones, and other equipment at the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar Province and the Harir air base in Irbil.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg condemned the attack and urged Tehran to hold back.

"I condemn the Iranian missile attacks on US and coalition forces in Iraq. NATO calls on Iran to refrain from further violence," Stoltenberg tweeted.

A NATO official said that there were no casualties among the personnel on the alliance's training mission in Iraq.

The Iraqi military said 22 missiles were fired.

"There were no victims among the Iraqi forces," the military said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi received a verbal message from Iran telling him a response to the U.S. killing of Soleimani was either imminent or under way, Abdul-Mahdi's spokesman said in a statement.

Tehran told Abdul-Mahdi it would only target locations where U.S. forces were present but did not specify the locations, his spokesman said.

The Iraqi prime minister simultaneously received a call from the United States while missiles were falling on the Ain al-Assad and Harir air bases, the spokesman said.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a televised speech that the attack was "a slap in the face" delivered to the United States.

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami told state television that should Washington retaliate, Iran would respond with "proportional" force.

"We used short-range missiles.... I hope this will be a memorable lesson for America," Hatami said.

"Iran's response [to any U.S. retaliation] will be proportional to what America will do," he said, adding that Trump "has turned the [U.S.] administration into a terrorist government."

Following the attack, several major airlines, including Air France and Germany's Lufthansa, said on January 8 that they were rerouting flights to avoid airspace over Iraq and Iran, while the Federal Aviation Administration banned U.S. carriers from the area.

The multiple attacks came hours after Soleimani was buried in his hometown on January 7.

Iran's military leaders and pro-Iranian factions in Iraq had vowed to avenge his death.

Professor Stephen David of Johns Hopkins University told Voice of America that while Iran's retaliation wasn't unexpected, it was surprising that Tehran chose to launch the attack from its own territory and use ballistic missiles -- a weapon substantially more powerful than a rocket.

"I think it was surprising that the attack was from Iran. It was not at all deniable," David said. "It was clear what the source of the attack was; the fact they use ballistic missiles also was a bit of a surprise, something of an escalation."

With reporting by AP, TASS, Reuters, Al Jazeera, dpa, and AFP

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