ISIS fighters wearing Iraqi military uniforms attacked the Al Asad base, a large military complex where 400 American forces are stationed to train Iraqi troops.
The attack took place in the early morning hours on Friday, with 20 to 25 ISIS militants attacking and trying to enter the Al Asad base. Iraqi forces were able to stop the attack and kill all the ISIS fighters, with no U.S. service members affected.
“About 7:20 a.m. (Iraqi time, Friday, Feb. 13) a small Daesh element attacked an Iraqi Army facility on the Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province,” read a statement from the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
The first wave of ISIS militants detonated suicide vests on the perimeter of the base, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby. Another 10 to 15 fighters then tried to enter the base, but were pushed back.
“They were immediately engaged by members of the Iraqi army, the 7th Infantry of the Iraqi Army, and all were killed,” Kirby said, noting that the fighting was brief and no Iraqis were hurt.
ISIS militants have targeted the base before, sending mortar fire, but U.S. military officials said it is not focused enough to do damage or cause injuries.
There were reports in Iraq late last year that ISIS attacked the Al Asad base in the first ever clash with American troops. According to reports, the U.S. troops were able to repel the attack using “light and medium weapons” and were aided by American fighter jets that directed air strikes against the roughly 100 militants who attacked.
“[U.S.] forces intervened because of ISIS started to come near the base, which they are stationed in so out of self-defense,” said Sheikh Mahmud Nimrawi, a prominent tribal leader.
American troops in Iraq had their first actual battle with ISIS troops after the Islamist militants tried to overrun a base, an encounter that left the ISIS troops decimated and in retreat.
But the Pentagon never confirmed the reports, which came from local Iraqi sources.
ISIS has been gradually working its way toward the Al Asad base in recent weeks, recently taking a town located 10 miles form the base. Kirby said it is the first time in months that ISIS has been able to gain new ground after being put on the defensive by American airstrikes and an assault from Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
The American troops were “at least a couple of miles away” when ISIS attacked the Al Asad base, the Pentagon said.