Seven mortar bombs strike Iraqi military base of Balad

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Seven mortar bombs fell on Sunday inside Iraq’s Balad air base, which houses US forces, and four Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the attack, according to military sources.

The military sources said the mortar bombs fell in the base’s runway inside the base, which is located in Salah al-Din province, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

The base had hosted American trainers, advisers and a company that provides maintenance services for F-16 aircraft, according to an Iraqi defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

A majority of US airmen stationed at the Balad air base had already left, the military sources said, following tensions between the US and Iran over the last two weeks.

Sunday’s attack wounded an Iraqi air force officer and three enlisted men, Iraqi security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Some rockets fell on a restaurant inside the airbase, the officials said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

A statement from the Iraqi army’s official media office confirmed the attack but said eight rockets hit the base, and that two officers had been wounded. The difference in accounts could no immediately be reconciled.

The US and Iran recently stepped back from escalating tensions following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a US airstrike in Baghdad. A senior Iraqi leader of an Iran-backed militia was also killed.

Iran’s retaliatory attack for Soleimani’s death hit two Iraqi bases, Ain al-Asad and Irbil, where American troops are based.

The limited Iranian strikes appeared to be mainly a show of force, and deescalated tensions that had threatened to turn Iraq into a proxy battlefield.

- With Agencies

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