Pentagon says 34 US soldiers suffered traumatic brain injury in Iran strike

Julian Borger and Joanna Walters
Photograph: Qassim Abdul-Zahra/AP

Thirty-four US soldiers have been diagnosed with concussion or traumatic brain injury from an 8 January Iranian missile attack on their base in Iraq, the Pentagon has revealed.

The Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said on Friday that eight service members who had been previously transported to Germany had been moved to the United States.

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

Donald Trump had said that the US “suffered no casualties” from the attack, which was a reprisal for the US drone strike assassination of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.

Questioned later about reports of brain injury, Trump downplayed their severity: “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.”

Hoffman confirmed the injuries on Friday, adding: “This is a snapshot in time, what he wanted to make sure is that you’re provided with the most accurate numbers.”

Michael Kaplen, chair of the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council and past president of the Brain Injury Association of New York State said that he was “shocked at the ignorant statement” made by Trump.

“To equate traumatic brain injuries as just a headache is insulting and disrespectful to the thousands of military service members suffering from the signature wound of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict,” he said.

He added that the condition, also known as TBI, is a “life-altering” injury.

“It’s physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral consequences affect every aspect of an individual’s life,” he said. “A brain injury is only ‘mild’ if it is someone else’s brain. There is nothing “mild” about a mild brain injury.”