Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson, USAF / Public Domain
A C-130J-30 Super Hercules brings its distinctive six-propeller engines up to speed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, Jan. 3, 2009

A volley of eight Katyusha-type rockets slammed into the compound Sunday (Jan. 12) at Al-Balad air base 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Baghdad where US forces are based. Four four Iraqi service personnel were wounded, according to a statement by the Iraqi military.

According to the statement, two Iraqi officers and two air men were wounded in the explosions. Al-Balad is the main air base for F-16 fighter jets that were purchased by Iraq from the United States to upgrade the country’s air force.

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Some of the rockets landed on a restaurant inside the airbase, officials told Reuters. Seven mortar shells were also fired at the base; some of the shells hit the runway of the airbase. A shell also struck the gate, according to Colonel Mohammed Khalil, a police officer in the northern province of Saladin, who added, “Three Iraqi soldiers who were on guard at the airbase gate were injured as a result of the shelling.”

A small contingent US Air Force personnel and a few American civilian contractors still remain on base, but the majority of the US forces have withdrawn from the base following the Iranian threats, according to a military source who spoke with the AFP news agency.

“About 90 percent of the US advisers, and employees of Sallyport and Lockheed Martin who are specialists in aircraft maintenance have withdrawn to Taji and Erbil after the threats,” one of the sources said, adding that no more than 15 US soldiers and a single plane remained on base.

Al-Balad airbase was attacked by missile fire on January 5 as well.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

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