Iraq rocket attack kills contractor, wounds U.S. service member, coalition says

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 16, 2021

A civilian contractor has died, and a USA service member and five more contractors have been injured, in an incident on a base used by the US -led coalition in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

The attack was the first time Western military or diplomatic installations have been targeted in Iraq in almost two months, after a string of such incidents.

Iraqi officials immediately expressed outrage.

According to the report, the explosions were heard in the airport area.

At least three rockets hit areas between the civilian airport in the semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region and the nearby base hosting USA troops at 9:30 p.m.

The spokesman for the coalition in Iraq, Col. Wayne Marotto, tweeted that the incident was due to indirect fire, and that more information would follow.

On Sept. 30, when six rockets hit near the airport.

Delovan Jalal, the head of Arbil's health directorate, told AFP at least five civilians were wounded and one was in critical condition.

A statement from the Kurdish interior ministry said a number of rockets were fired towards Erbil and its outskirts around 9:30pm. local time and some people were wounded, but it offered no further details.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh condemned the attack, saying in a statement posted online that it marked a "dangerous escalation". Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in a statement called for an investigation into the attack. One US service member was also injured, he said.

The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear, and American forces are often targeted by forces including ISIS, but American officials including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have blamed Iran-backed groups for previous strikes on U.S. forces in recent years.

Hoshiyar Zebari, a politburo member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said security officials were investigating the source of the attack. The December 2019 killing of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Kirkuk sparked a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that brought the country to the brink of a proxy war.

The last deadly attack to target the coalition killed one British and two American personnel in March previous year.

Washington again carried out strikes on Kataeb positions.

Rocket attacks have frequently target the US presence in Baghdad, including the US Embassy, as well as convoys ferrying materials for the US-led coalition.

But there have been violations, the most recent of which had been a spray of rockets targeting the United States embassy on December 20.

The frequency of attacks diminished late a year ago ahead of US President Joe Biden's inauguration. Kurdish authorities had blamed Shiite militia groups.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq threatened to fight Turkish troops if their operations expanded and another pro-Iran faction, Ashab Ahl al-Kahf, claimed on Monday it had attacked a Turkish military base along the Iraqi border.

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