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Rockets Hit Iraq Air Base Hosting U.S. Troops Ahead Of Papal Visit


The missiles struck the Ain Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq on March 3. (file photo)

The U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says at least 10 rockets have been fired at a military base that hosts American and other coalition troops.

The missiles struck the Ain Al-Asad Air Base in the western province of Anbar at 7:20 a.m. local time on March 3, spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto said.

The Iraqi military said the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used in the incident.

AFP quoted Western security sources as saying the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models.

"One civilian contractor died of a heart attack during the attack," a high-level security source told the news agency, adding that he could not confirm the contractor's nationality.

The Ain Al-Assad base hosts Iraqi forces, as well as troops from the U.S.-led coalition helping Iraq fight the Islamic State extremist group.

The attack comes after a February 16 rocket salvo on a military base in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops.

It also comes two days before Pope Francis is due to travel to Iraq despite the deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church said on March 3 that he would make the three-day trip -- the first-ever papal visit to Iraq -- because "the Iraqi people are waiting for us."

“One cannot disappoint a people for the second time,” Francis said, referring to Pope John Paul II’s aborted plans to visit the country in 2000.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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