By Ian Collier and Connor Sephton, news reporters
Iran has fired 22 ballistic missiles against two Iraqi bases housing US and coalition troops.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard has confirmed it launched the attack targeting the Erbil and Al Asad bases in retaliation for last week’s killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani in a US airstrike.
US and Iraqi officials have said there are no immediate reports of casualties – though buildings are still being searched – and the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that no UK personnel were affected.
Image: Major General Qassem Soleimani was killed on Friday
Iranian state television has described the ballistic missile attacks as the “first step” – with a Revolutionary Guard commander warning that Tehran will not spare American troops.
“[Donald Trump] should think about withdrawing troops from the region and not to leave them within our reach,” the statement said.
The US and its regional allies have also been warned not to retaliate.
A presenter on Iranian state TV has claimed – without offering evidence – that the strikes have killed “at least 80 terrorist US soldiers” and also damaged helicopters, drones and other equipment.
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On Twitter, the country’s foreign minister Javad Zarif said: “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched. We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
Reacting to the missile attack, Mr Trump tweeted: “All is well! Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq. Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now.
“So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”
Image: US and coalition troops are based at the Al Asad air base. File pic
A US government statement said: “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al Asad and Erbil.
“We are working on initial battle damage assessments.
“These bases have been on high alert due to indications that the Iranian regime planned to attack our forces and interests in the region.
“As we evaluate the situation and our response, we will take all necessary measures to protect and defend US personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”
Image: Erbil and Al Asad air bases were targeted
The UK’s Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, condemned the attack and said he was “concerned by reports of casualties and use of ballistic missiles” – and warned a war in the Middle East would only benefit Islamic State and other terror groups.
He added: “We urge Iran not to repeat these reckless and dangerous attacks, and instead to pursue urgent de-escalation.”
Al Asad air base, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, was first used by American forces after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
It later saw American troops stationed there amid the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
This is Iran’s most direct assault on America since the 1979 seizing of the US embassy in Tehran.
Hours after the missile attack, a Boeing 737 carrying 176 people crashed shortly after take off from Iran’s main international airport. There were no survivors.
Image: A US Marine helicopter takes off from the Al Asad base. File pic
Sky’s foreign affairs editor Deborah Haynes said: “Anyone who thinks they can predict what will happen next in this crisis between the United States and Iran is probably fooling themselves.
“With the risk of them sliding into a direct war more acute now than at any time in the last four decades, the opposing sides are respectively headed by a uniquely unpredictable US president and a regime in Tehran that’s reeling from the assassination of its top general.
“Logic would dictate that if the Iranian missile strikes against US and coalition bases in Iraq overnight impacted without killing any US military personnel, President Donald Trump could absorb the attack without striking back militarily. After all, he did order the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani – whose importance to Iran is only second to that of the supreme leader – and most have known that would come at a price.
“But the US commander in chief had vowed to avenge the targeting of any American assets if Iran decided to retaliate and he could feel that a failure now to respond with force would be seen as weakness, not calculated restraint.”
Source : Sky News