Suicide Bombers Make It onto Iraq Base Used by U.S. Marines after ISIS Seized Nearby Town

( [email protected] ) Feb 13, 2015 12:12 PM EST
US Marines Training Iraqi to Fight Against ISIS
Marine Maj. Brandon Stibb, an infantry officer with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, speaks to Iraqi army soldiers about maneuver techniques after an exercise at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Jan. 15, 2015. Photo: U.S. Army

Eight suicide bombers believed to have been members of ISIS managed Friday to get onto a Iraqi military base where hundreds of U.S. Marines are training their Iraqi counterparts, but made it "nowwhere near" the American forces before they were killed by an ISF counter attack almost immediately, according to CBS News. 

Sean Ryan, chief of foreign affairs for the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq, confirmed to CBS that the attackers made it onto the secluded Ain al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad, and the coalition forces were at least a mile and a half away from the attack, and at no point were they under direct threat from the militants.

However, it remained unclear how the militants managed to get past the approximately 12-mile-circumference security fence around the base, which includes watch towers, barbed wire, and a bridged entrance over a river.  

ISIS fighters have launched a major offensive Thursday, seizing parts of a town in Iraq that is uncomfortably close to a base that housed U.S. military personnel.

According to a report on Fox News, ISIS militants managed to overrun much of the town of al-Baghdadi. The fight took place near an air base where U.S. Marines have been deployed to train Iraqis.

Fox News reported that 320 U.S. Marines were stationed at Al Asad air base, which was a 13-minute drive from al-Baghdadi. Although Reuters noted that the air base hasn't been directly attacked, the spokesperson, identified as Navy Commander Elissa Smith, noted that the base has taken "ineffective indirect fire in the vicinity."

"We continue to support efforts by Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with tribal fighters, directed against ISIL in the province," Smith said.

According to Reuters, ISIS militants besieged the city for months after capturing vast areas of northern and western Iraq last year. Intelligence sources told Reuters that the radical Sunni Islamist militants made their move from two directions earlier in the day and advanced on the town.

Retired Col. Thomas Lynch, a National Defense fellow, told Fox News that the latest report coming out of Iraq "bears watching."

"He stressed that for the fighters to pose a threat to the base, they'd have to get through the perimeter," Fox News wrote. "While 'it's not impossible,' Lynch said, to do it they would have to amass a large number of fighters - which would make them 'vulnerable' to airstrikes."

Fox News reported that the affected area, located in Anbar Province, has been a hot zone of fighting for ISIS. The Pentagon also confirmed to Fox News back in January that U.S. troops at the Al Asad base had been coming under regular mortar fire.

Ghazi Al-Gu'ood, a sheikh from Albu Nimer tribe in Anbar, told NBC News that ISIS fighters burned down a civic building where Iraqis obtain national ID cards and targeted the town's communication towers. Before that, militants managed to take over the town's central police station and other government buildings.

NBC News reported that ISIS fighters pulled off the attack thanks to a sandstorm that grounded Iraqi helicopters and fighter jets. However, the coalition, led by the U.S., did conduct airstrikes on ISIS positions around al-Baghdadi in response to the attack.

The number of casualties on all sides remained unclear, according to NBC News.