US Central Command (CENTCOM) said Tuesday that a US AC-130 gunship launched strikes in Iraq against people allegedly responsible for an earlier missile attack on the Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq, which houses US troops.
The Pentagon said eight US troops were wounded when Ain al-Asad airbase was targeted with a “short-range ballistic missile” and that the AC-130 responded “immediately.”
CENTCOM said the AC-130 strikes strike resulted in “several enemy casualties.” A US official later told The War Zone that the strikes killed at least one member of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia militia.
According to AFP, the AC-130 struck a vehicle in Abu Ghraib, once the site of the notorious American torture prison. AC-130 gunships are armed with various types of heavy weapons, including 105mm howitzers.
The US airstrikes in Iraq risk significantly escalating attacks on US forces in the region. As of Monday, US troops in Iraq and Syria have come under attack at least 61 times since October 17 due to President Biden’s full-throated support for the Israeli onslaught in Gaza.
The US has launched three rounds of airstrikes in eastern Syria against Shia militias believed to be responsible for the attacks. The incident on Tuesday marked the first US strikes in Iraq since the attacks on US bases started last month.
The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the Pentagon was aware launching strikes in Iraq could “exacerbate anti-American sentiment” in the country. Many elements in Iraqi politics oppose the US presence, which consists of about 2,500 troops, and the direct US strikes could spark fresh protests.
Leaders of the Shia militias that operate in Iraq and Syria have vowed attacks on US troops will continue until there is a durable ceasefire in Gaza. They might also see the current tensions as an opportunity to drive US forces out of Iraq.