US Troops in Iraq Getting Evaluated for Traumatic Brain Injuries After Iran-Backed Militia Attack

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Iraqi army ceremony on Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
Iraqi Air Force Staff Maj. Gen. Abbas Fadel Damer, the commander of Al Asad Air Base, addresses the Iraqi army field artillerymen during a ceremony on Oct. 26, 2023. (Daphney Black/U.S. Army)

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U.S. personnel in Iraq are undergoing traumatic brain injury evaluations after Iranian-backed militias launched a barrage of ballistic missiles and rockets at the Al-Asad airbase in western Iraq on Saturday, according to a statement from the US Central Command (CENTCOM).

The press release stated that multiple ballistic missiles and rockets were launched at about 6:30 p.m. Baghdad time on January 20.

"Most of the missiles were intercepted by the base's air defense systems while others impacted on the base," per CENTCOM.

CENTCOM said that damage assessments are ongoing, and several US personnel are undergoing evaluation for traumatic brain injuries.

At least one Iraqi service member was reportedly wounded.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an Iran-backed militia group, claimed responsibility for firing the missiles that were launched from inside the country.

The attack is believed to be the largest among more than 140 incidents since mid-October, and signifies a pattern of Iranian-backed militia groups targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria, ABC News reports.

The attacks are seen by some as acts of solidarity with Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, mirroring similar actions by Houthi militants in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden against commercial shipping.

Unlike previous attacks primarily using Iranian-made drones and rockets, Saturday's assault involved more powerful ballistic missiles and represents an escalatory move, per ABC News.

The Pentagon says strikes on Houthi rebels are 'defensive' measures

Iran also backs the Houthis and have triggered retaliatory strikes from the US.

The Pentagon has labeled its strikes on Houthi missiles as "defensive" measures.

The Houthis rebels' attacks on Red Sea shipping sought to support a ceasefire in Gaza.

The heightened tensions between Iran-backed militias and the US in Iraq follow a US military drone strike in Baghdad on January 4, which targeted a senior leader of one such militia, the Guardian reports.

There are 2,500 U.S. troops still stationed in Iraq, part of the ongoing mission to counter the Islamic State terror group.

Another 900 US troops are deployed to Syria to prevent a resurgence by the Islamic State, the Pentagon reports.

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