An American contractor suffered a heart attack and died as rockets rained down on a base hosting US troops in Iraq

Aerial file photo taken from a helicopter shows Ain al-Asad air base in the western Anbar desert, Iraq
Aerial file photo taken from a helicopter shows Al Asad Airbase in the western Anbar desert, Iraq AP Photo/Nasser Nasser
  • An unidentified force launched ten rockets at a base hosting US troops in Iraq Wednesday.
  • During the attack, a US civilian contractor suffered a “cardiac episode” while sheltering. The person died shortly after.
  • Multiple reports indicated that the “cardiac episode” in this case was an apparent heart attack.
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The Pentagon said that a US civilian contractor suffered a “cardiac episode” while taking shelter during a rocket attack on a base in Iraq hosting US troops.

Operation Inherent Resolve announced Wednesday that at approximately 7:20 am in Iraq, a total of ten rockets were launched by an unidentified force at Al Asad Airbase. Iraqi security forces are investigating the assault on the base.

—OIR Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto (@OIRSpox) March 3, 2021

In a separate statement, the Pentagon confirmed the attack on Al Asad. The rockets, which appear to have been fired from a position east of the base, were engaged by the base’s Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) missile defensive system.

“There are no current reports of US servicemember injuries and all are accounted for,” the Pentagon said. But, “a US  civilian contractor suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering and sadly passed away shortly after.”

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the individual who died,” the Pentagon said.

The “cardiac episode,” as the Pentagon initially characterized it, was later acknowledged to be “cardiac arrest” by a Pentagon spokesperson.

Wednesday’s  attack on US and coalition forces at Al Asad follows another attack at another military installation in northern Iraq in mid-February that killed a coalition civilian contractor and wounded a US service member.

In response to that attack and others, the Biden administration carried out an airstrike on facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Syria.

Commenting on the latest rocket attack on US and coalition forces, the Pentagon said that “we cannot attribute responsibility at this time, and we do not have a complete picture of the extent of the damage. We stand by as needed to assist our Iraqi partners as they investigate.”

Al Asad Airbase is the same base that Iran struck with a barrage of ballistic missiles on Jan. 8, 2020 following the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military officer and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, a few days earlier. The US has said that Soleimani of arming militias in Iraq and masterminding attacks on Americans in the region.

The US military recently released new video footage of the attack on the base last year.

No US troops were killed in the Iranian missile attack, but more than 100 service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries of varying severity. A total of 29 US troops who were wounded during the attack received Purple Hearts.

The situation de-escalated after the attack, but tensions between the US and Iran have persisted.