(WASHINGTON) — Two American service members and one British service member were killed in a rocket attack on a base in Iraq on Wednesday, according to two U.S. officials, in a move that has the potential to once again ratchet up tensions in the Middle East.
The U.S.-led coalition confirmed in a tweet that 15 small rockets impacted the Camp Taji base — which houses U.S. troops — at 7:35 p.m. local time in Iraq.
The officials told ABC News that, in addition to the three killed, at least 10 others were injured in the attack, though their nationalities were not immediately known.
While the U.S. is not confirming who it believes is behind the attack, Iranian-backed militia groups have been found responsible for similar attacks on bases that house U.S. forces. And the Trump administration has warned that another Iranian attack that killed Americans would warrant a response.
“On the military side, we’ve warned the Iranians repeatedly — I’ve done so personally myself — that an attack that took American lives would not be tolerated,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech in January.
In December, an attack by the Iranian-backed militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) on a base in northern Iraq killed an American contractor. That led the U.S. to take military retaliation against the group, carrying out airstrikes on several locations in Iraq and Syria.
Tensions continued to escalate, as demonstrators attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Then on Jan. 2, the U.S. military conducted a strike on Qassem Soleimani, killing the top Iranian general as he left Baghdad International Airport. The U.S. said he was plotting additional attacks against U.S. personnel and interests in the region. But in a show of force, the Iranians launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at bases in Iraq where U.S. troops were present, causing traumatic brain injuries to more than 100 American service members.
Speaking about the death on Soleimani in January, Pompeo said, “Judging from the type and intensity of the strike, the regime certainly must now understand what we will do if they ever again pose risk to American lives. If Iran escalates, we will end it on our terms.”
He and others in the administration have claimed the strike on Soleimani re-established deterrence with Iran. But Pompeo has acknowledged “it’s not everlasting.”
There have now been four American troops killed in Iraq this year alone.
Over the weekend, two U.S. Marine Raiders, Gunnery Sgt. Diego Pongo and Capt. Moises Navas, were killed during an anti-ISIS mission in northern Iraq.
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