US troops describe 'miraculous' escape at Iraqi base attacked by Iran

The Jan. 8 attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq the previous week.

US troops describe 'miraculous' escape at Iraqi base attacked by Iran
US soldiers are seen at the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

The Jan. 8 attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq the previous week.

roops at the Iraqi air base that bore the brunt of Iran's first direct missile attack against US forces said they were shocked by its intensity and grateful to emerge unscathed.

The scale of the damage at the Ain al-Asad base showed Iran's destructive capability at a time when US officials say they are still concerned that Iran-backed groups across the region could wage attacks on the United States.

"It's miraculous no one was hurt," Lt Col Staci Coleman, the US air force officer who runs the airfield, told reporters on Monday at the vast base deep in the western Anbar desert in Iraq, where 1,500 Americans were deployed.

"Who thinks they're going to have ballistic missiles launched at them ... and suffer no casualties?"

The Jan. 8 attack came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should expect retaliation over the US killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Iraq the previous week.

The killing raised fears of a new Middle East war, but the United States, Iraq and other countries with troops at the base said no one was hurt. US military leaders have said that was thanks to commanders on the ground, not Tehran's goodwill.

At one site, a cruise missile had left a large crater and incinerated living quarters made from shipping containers.

Heavy concrete blast walls were knocked over and the shipping containers were smashed and charred along with contents including bicycles, chairs and other furniture. Several soldiers said one of their number had come very close to being blown up inside a shelter behind the blast walls.