Trump downplays brain injuries suffered by US troops in Iran missile strike

Michael Safi
Photograph: Ayman Henna/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump has downplayed the brain injuries suffered by US personnel in Iran’s missile attacks on bases where they were stationed earlier this month, as the military announced additional troops were being flown from Iraq for treatment for possible injuries and that more may follow.

Though the US president initially said no US troops were harmed in the 8 January attack on two Iraqi bases housing them, the Pentagon announced last week that 11 service members had been flown to medical hospitals in Germany and Kuwait to be “treated for concussion symptoms from the blast”.

Asked about the discrepancy on Wednesday, Trump said he learned about the injuries “numerous days later”.

“I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report it is not very serious,” he told a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen. I’ve seen people with no legs and no arms.”

US officials separately announced on Wednesday that several more troops had been “identified as having potential injuries” and were being transported to Germany for further diagnosis and treatment.

“Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future,” US central command spokesman Bill Urban said.

Related: Trump claims Suleimani was 'saying bad things' about US before deadly strike

After the attacks on the Ein al-Asad base and another site in Iraqi Kurdistan, Trump said that initial casualty assessments were “so far, so good”.

He cited the apparent lack of casualties and minimal damage in a speech the following morning that dismissed the strikes, said Iran appeared to be standing down, and indicated the US would also do so.

“I’m pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” Trump said. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties.”

Iranian state media has claimed that 80 American personnel were killed or injured and secretly flown from the base before the sun rose on Wednesday morning. Military leaders in the country have said their intention was not to kill US troops but to send a message.

Iraqi’s caretaker prime minister has said he was given advance notice of the attacks and passed it on to the US. American commanders at Ein al-Asad have also said they received several hours’ notice of the strikes, which were carried out in retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani five days before.