Al Asad Air Base defences being strengthened

US Casualty Count Rises For Third Time After Military Base Attack

Al Asad Air Base defences being strengthened

The Pentagon has again raised the numbers of US service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in a missile strike by Iran on an Iraqi air base earlier this month.

It is the third time the official number of casualties figure has increased since the 8 January attack on Al Asad air base.

President Trump had initially said "no Americans were harmed", but a later statement by the US revealed 11 service personnel had been injured - a figure which was then increased to 34 last week.

The Pentagon has now said 50 were in fact diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, such as concussion, although 31 of those are now back on duty.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said in a statement: "As of today, 50 US service members have been diagnosed.

"This is a snapshot in time and numbers can change," he added.

In the hours following the incident, amid a casualty assessment and a spike in tensions between the West and Iran, President Donald Trump tweeted that there had been no injuries at either of the bases in Al Asad or Erbil.

The UK's Ministry of Defence now says none of its personnel were present at the site during the time of the attack, although British troops are thought to have been in Erbil.

A total of 15 missiles were fired at the two bases, 10 targeting Al Asad, in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Tension between the West and Iran have spiked in the aftermath of the killing, including uncertainty over the 2015 nuclear deal - negotiated to prevent the Middle Eastern nation from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Personnel who required further screening for brain injury were transported to Kuwait and Germany.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, 15 of the 16 most recent cases have returned to duty.

Cover image: Work to improve defences at Al Asad air base taking place earlier this month (Picture: US Army).