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Drones attack Balad Air Base hosting US troops near Iraqi capital

This picture shows a US-made F-16 fighter jet outside a hardened hangar at Balad Air Base, north of Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo by AP)

An air base housing US military forces and warplanes in the north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad has been hit by drones amid a rise in attacks on the positions of US occupation forces in the Arab country.

Sabereen News, a Telegram news channel associated with Iraqi anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi, reported that a number of combat drones hit the military compound 64 km north of Baghdad, on Saturday morning.  

Sirens immediately sounded at the military compound, and the sound of gunfire could be heard from the site, it said.

The drone attack also sent dense plumes of smoke rising above the targeted area.

Alarms and calls in English were heard, asking the military personnel inside the base to take shelter and stay away from the scene.

According to Sabereen News, citing an unnamed security source, quadcopter and fixed-wing drones hit an office belonging to American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corporation inside the air base.

A statement released by the Security Media Cell, affiliated with the Iraqi prime minister's office, said three drones approached the southern flank of the air base on Saturday morning.

The statement said C-RAM and air defense systems detected the aircraft, and fired shots to force them off the airspace above the Balad Air base.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack. 

On Thursday, three rockets were fired at Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone.

“Two of those fell on the grounds of the American embassy and the other on a school nearby,” a senior security official told AFP news agency.

The missile that fell on the school left a woman and a girl injured.

Anti-American sentiments have been on the rise in Iraq since the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, second-in-command of the PMU, as well as their companions in a US drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that requires the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by the US in the country.

Both commanders were highly revered across the Middle East because of their key role in fighting the Daesh terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

On January 8, 2020, the IRGC targeted the US-run Ain al-Asad in Iraq’s western province of Anbar by launching a volley of missiles in retaliation.

According to the Pentagon, more than 100 American forces suffered “traumatic brain injuries” during the counterstrike on the base.

Iran has described the missile attack on Ain al-Assad as a “first slap”.

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