34 US Troops Suffered Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injuries in Iranian Missile Strike: Pentagon

January 24, 2020 Updated: January 24, 2020
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Thirty-four U.S. service members suffered concussions and traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile attack on American forces at two Iraqi military bases earlier this month, said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman on Friday.

“Eight service members who were previously transported to Germany have been transported to the United States” for more treatment, Hoffman said in a press conference. He said they arrived Friday morning, and nine other service members are still being treated in Germany.

Sixteen service members who were diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries remained in Iraq, and “have already returned to duty,” he said. Meanwhile, one service member was taken to Kuwait for treatment and has returned to duty.

On Jan. 8, Iran fired around two-dozen missiles at two bases in Iraq. A day later, President Donald Trump said there were no deaths or injuries.

According to photos captured by The Associated Press following the attack, several sections of the al-Asad Airbase targeted by Iran appeared to have been totally devastated. The missiles destroyed several buildings that house soldiers.

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Debris and rubble are seen at the site where an Iranian missile hit at al-Asad Airbase air base in Anbar province, Iraq on Jan. 13, 2020. (John Davison/Reuters)

“We could feel the shock wave and when the impact hit, the bunker doors sunk in,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Staci Coleman, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal in mid-January. “My personal opinion is that they really wanted to target our [air] assets and if they so happened to kill Americans in the process, that was OK with them.”

Tehran said it fired the missiles in retaliation to an American airstrike that killed its commander, Qassem Soleimani, who headed the shadowy Quds Force, just days earlier near the Baghdad airport. The United States has said Soleimani was killed because he was planning attacks on American assets after Iran-aligned militia groups allegedly directed an assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31. Before that, the United States said it carried out airstrikes on the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah organization in Iran after it killed an American contractor in late December.

After the Iranian missile strike on the airbases, Trump announced sanctions against Iran and pushed for a de-escalation in the region. Hours after the missile barrage, however, Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane near the Tehran airport, killing all 176 people on board.

Soleimani’s successor, Gen. Esmail Ghaani, warned the United States that it would face “manly revenge” from Iran following Soleimani’s death.

Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, issued a warning earlier this week that if “Ghaani follows the same path of killing Americans then he will meet the same fate” as Soleimani, according to an interview with Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

“This isn’t a new threat. The president has always said that he will always respond decisively to protect American interests,” Hook added. “I think the Iranian regime understands now that they cannot attack America and get away with it.”