An AC-130 gunship fired on an Iran-backed militia vehicle in Iraq on Monday night after the occupants fired a missile at a base housing U.S. troops, the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday.
The aircraft was already overhead when the close-range ballistic missile hit al Asad airbase, Defense Department spokeswoman Sabrina Singh confirmed during a press briefing, adding that in addition to planned strikes on Iran-backed militia facilities over the past month, U.S. forces in the Middle East have immediately returned fire after some of the dozens of attacks on bases housing U.S. troops since mid-October.
“This self-defense strike resulted in some hostile fatalities,” Singh said.
The attack on al Asad brought the total since Oct. 17 to 66, including 32 in Iraq and 34 in Syria. It was the first attack by a ballistic missile, Singh confirmed, as drones and rockets had been the go-to weapons previously.
The Pentagon did not plan to make this retaliatory strike public, Singh confirmed, but reporting by multiple news outlets forced DOD to confirm.
“Again, we don’t read out every single time ... how a certain system or capability takes down a drone or rocket attack,” she said. “We have had other cases where we have responded in retaliation when we were able to identify the point of origin. So, it’s not our first time, but it is just something that, you know, has been first publicly reported.”
Singh could not say how many of these quick-response strikes have taken place, clarifying that three strikes on facilities in Syria over the past month were announced publicly because they were preplanned.
Sixty-two troops have received “non-serious” injuries during these militia attacks since Oct. 17, she said, including some traumatic brain injuries. That total does not include “several” injuries from Monday’s attack on al Asad, she added, “as they are still being evaluated.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.