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Mortars strike Iraq base hosting US forces in latest 'mystery' attack

The base has been a target of previous mystery attacks [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 November, 2019

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Iraqi commander of operations Noman Zobaei said forces responded to the attack in a strike that “killed three terrorists and destroyed a vehicle".

At least 17 rockets struck a military base north of the Iraqi capital on Friday, where US troops are deployed, Iraqi security sourced said.

No casualties were reported in the attack on the Qayyarah base, though it comes as Iraq faces a wave of anti-government protests in Baghdad and the south.

Iraqi commander of operations Noman Zobaei said forces responded to the attack in a strike that “killed three terrorists and destroyed a vehicle”. A second vehicle loaded with another missile was seized from the scene of the operation, according to local Alsumaria TV.

It is unknown who is responsible for the attack however similar mystery strikes also targeted the base last month, though no damage or casualties were reported.
The US currently has 5,200 troops in Iraq, part of a US-led international coalition against IS.

Their presence at several bases in Iraq has been the subject of debate, with pro-Iranian Shia militias and politicians making frequent demands for their withdrawal.

In October, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said American troops withdrawing from Syria would stay in Iraq "temporarily" before returning to the US.

It is unknown who is responsible for the attacks however several mystery strikes have targeted Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) - a coalition of some 70, mostly Shia militias backed by Iran - in recent months.

Since mid-July, more than five PMF arms' depots and training camps have been targeted in apparent attacks. 

The latest such incident took place in October when unidentified aircraft launched airstrikes on PMF bases near Syria's border.

The PMF have repeatedly blamed Israel for raids by unmanned aircraft but Iraq's prime minister accused Israel of being behind the attacks.

"Investigations into the targeting of some Popular Mobilisation Forces positions indicate that Israel carried it out," Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying.

Read more: Indepth: Normalisation breeds impunity: Deafening silence as Israel strikes multiple Arab states

A spokeswoman for the Israeli military declined to comment on the Iraqi premier's remarks.

US and Middle East intelligence officials confirmed in August that a string of unclaimed attacks against the Shia militia bases in Iraq were carried out by Israel.

Israel has repeatedly bombed Iranian targets in neighbouring Syria, but an expansion of the campaign to Iraq would risk damaging Washington's relations with Baghdad.

Israel has accused Tehran of attempting to establish a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon, via Iraq and Syria, and the strikes appear to correspondent with this alleged supply route.

Iran has a strong military and militia presence in Iraq and Syria and backs Lebanese movement Hezbollah.

The PMF was established in 2014 from mostly-Shia armed groups and volunteers to fight the Islamic State group and is now formally part of Iraq's armed forces.

But the US and Israel fear some units are an extension of their arch-foe Iran and have been equipped with precision-guided missiles that could reach Israel. 

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