Security boosted at Iraqi military base home to US contractors: reports

Security has been boosted at an Iraqi military base housing American contractors, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

US Army soldiers walk past army trucks during a logistical operation to clear equipment and heavy machinery from the Balad Air Base, Baghdad, Iraq.

An Iraqi military official told the outlet that security measures are being implemented at the Balad air base as tensions between the U.S. and Iran spike.

“All unnecessary movements have been reduced,” Gen. Falah Fares said, adding that the curfew now lasts from sunset until sunrise, according to the AP.

He said the change was made after Balad Air Base, home to a squadron of Iraqi F-16 fighter jets, was hit with three mortar shells last week. The curfew had previously been from midnight to sunrise, he said.

Three Iraqi sources told Reuters that beyond new security measures, the U.S. was considering moving hundreds of staff working for Lockheed Martin Corp and Sallyport Global from Balad.

Col. Kevin Walker, U.S. Air Forces Central Command Director of Force Protection, denied that U.S. forces are evacuating contractors in a statement to both outlets Saturday.

“Operations at Balad Air Base are continuing as normal. Claims that personnel are being evacuated are categorically false,” Walker said. “There are no plans at this time to evacuate any personnel from Balad.”

Walker also said that the military is constantly evaluating security levels.

“The safety and security of all Air Force personnel and those that provide services to the U.S. Air Force are constantly evaluated, and should there be increased threats to our people, the U.S. Air Force will put measures in place to provide the protections required,” he said.

The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a request about the situation at Balad Air Base from The Hill.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have skyrocketed following an American drone being shot down by Iran. The two countries differ on where the drone was.

President Trump on Friday confirmed that the U.S. military was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran after the drone incident, but backed off at the last minute.

The U.S. also accused Tehran of bombing two foreign oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran denied any involvement.


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