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Members of the American forces at the Iraqi al-Asad air base, which was the first Iranian direct missile attack against American forces, said they were shocked by the intensity of the attack and expressed their gratitude for their deliverance.
The scale of the damage to the base shows the destructive power of Iran, while US officials say they are still concerned about the possibility that Iranian-backed factions across the region may launch attacks on American targets.
“It is a miracle that no one was hurt,” said Lt. Col. Stacy Coleman, a US Air Force commander and al-Qaeda commander, on Monday at a vast base deep into the Anbar desert in Iraq, where 1,500 Americans are spreading. Whoever thinks that they will launch ballistic missiles will not suffer any losses! ”
The attack, January 8, came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation for the killing of the Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in an airstrike by a drone in Iraq the previous week.
The killing of “Soleimani” raised fears of a new war in the Middle East, but the United States, Iraq and other countries, which have forces at the air base, said that nobody was hurt. US military commanders have said that the credit goes to field commanders, not to Iran’s goodwill.
In one location, a cruise missile caused a large crater and burned living areas from freight containers. The concrete walls cracked, the shipping containers were shattered and charred, including things that included bicycles, benches and other furniture.
About a dozen rockets hit the airbase, as US forces implemented “deployment plans” to transport soldiers and equipment to several fortified areas away from each other. The US forces have no Patriot air defenses at the base, which places the responsibility of protecting their forces on local commanders.
Sergeant Tommy Caldwell said: “We received notification of a possible attack hours earlier, so we moved the equipment.”
Lieutenant Colonel Coleman said that by 10 pm, the forces under his command were ready to take cover. “People took this very seriously,” she added.
Three and a half hours later, the rockets began to fall. Several soldiers said it lasted for two hours.
Sgt. Armando Martinez, who went out to inspect the damage, said he did not imagine the ease with which walls designed with concrete were destroyed to protect against the impact of the explosions after being hit by one missile.
He added, “When a missile strikes, this is one thing, but when it is a ballistic missile, this is horrific.”
He continued: «You see a white light like a meteorite and a few seconds later it falls and explodes. The next day after the attack, a colleague saw a real meteor, and he was terrified.
A missile landed on the landing strip and service area of the Black Hawk helicopter, which is helping to transport supplies in the fight against ISIS.
The helicopters had been moved, but the missile attack destroyed two hangars and severely damaged the mobile cabins nearby.
“We had to be in the fortified rooms for more than 5 hours, maybe 7 or 8, they knew what they were targeting by hitting the airstrip and the parking area,” said Sergeant Kenneth Godwin, commander of the US Air Force.
This was the latest strike against an air base that senior US officials have been disembarking during visits to Iraq.
On Sunday, the Iraqi army said that 4 people were wounded in an attack on Balad Air Base in northern Iraq, which also includes American soldiers.
Military sources said that the wounded were Iraqi soldiers.