Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Iran may have been behind attack on Iraq's Balad Air Base, State Department says
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran may have been behind Thursday's attack on Iraq's Balad air base, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday, but added that Washington was awaiting further evidence.
Iraqi military on Thursday said that two Katyusha rockets landed inside Balad air base, which hosts U.S. forces and contractors and is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Baghdad.
No casualties or damages were reported in the attack for which there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
"We're waiting for full evidence, but if past is prologue then there's a good chance that Iran was behind it," David Schenker, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters in a briefing.
On Tuesday, five rockets landed on Ain Al-Asad air base, which hosts U.S. forces in Anbar province in western Iraq without causing any casualties.
Schenker called the increasing attacks something of "great concern," and said Iran has become more aggressive over the past five to six months.
"The Iranians often times, or have certainly in the past, taken aggressive action when they feel under pressure," he said.
The United States ratcheted up economic sanctions against Iran after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and world powers to choke Iran's oil exports and isolate its economy.
In response, Tehran has remained defiant and rolled back commitments it made under the 2015 deal aimed at keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran also has been angry over a lack of European protection from U.S. sanctions.
Some analysts have warned that cornering Tehran could make it more aggressive. Tensions in the Gulf in recent months have spiked after attacks on oil tankers and a September air strike on Saudi oil facilities, which the United States blamed on Iran, but that Tehran has denied.
A U.S. soldier died on Friday while in Syria supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the Defense Department announced on Saturday.
A word that could once not be mentioned in court — torture — was front and center on Friday as a military tribunal prepares to take on the long-delayed trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed chief plotter of the 9/11 attacks, and four other defendants.
"I know torture's a dirty word," defense attorney Walter Ruiz told the tribunal. "I'll tell you what, judge, I'm not going to sanitize this for their concerns."
The suspect in the death of 21-year-old U.S. Marine Cpl. Tyler Wallingford, who was fatally shot in the barracks of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort more than nine months ago, was found guilty in military court of involuntary manslaughter earlier this month and sentenced to more than five years.
A 19-year-old Army private who died during basic training earlier this month was posthumously promoted to private first class, just before friends and family gathered for a memorial service to honor his life on Jan. 16.