Iraq Rocket Attack Kills Contractor, Wounds US Service Member

  • Iraq Rocket Attack Kills Contractor, Wounds US Service Member

Iraq Rocket Attack Kills Contractor, Wounds US Service Member

One civilian contractor with the coalition was killed and five others wounded, coalition spokesman U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto said.

In recent months, attacks targeting USA forces have become less frequent, but analysts and diplomats have suggested that Iran may now seek to test President Biden's administration in Washington.

Rockets struck outside Irbil global airport near where USA forces are based in northern Iraq late Monday, killing one US-led coalition contractor and wounding at least eight people, Iraqi security and coalition officials reported, sparking fears of new hostilities. Reuters reporters heard several loud explosions and saw a fire break out near the airport.

At least two rockets fell on the global airport in Irbil and another overflew it, Kurdistan's Directorate General of Counter Terrorism said in a Facebook post.

The killed and injured contractors are all believed to be foreign nationals.

Two other rockets hit residential neighbourhoods on Arbil's outskirts. Local media reported rockets fell in several areas in and around the city, and multiple people were being treated for injuries in hospital. Another attack in September a year ago thought to have been targeting Baghdad's worldwide airport killed six Iraqi civilians.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh condemned the attack, saying in a statement posted online that it marked a "dangerous escalation".

He said he had spoken to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi so that security forces based in Arbil and Baghdad could cooperate on the investigation.

A little-known group known as Awliya al Dam (Guardian of the Blood) brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had launched the rockets in revenge for the deaths of "the martyred leaders".

U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.

Following a deadly rocket attack at a base near Kirkuk that killed a US civilian contractor in late 2019, the Pentagon launched airstrikes on militia sites, leading to a series of escalations with the militias and Iran in early 2020.

A rocket attack on a base in northern Iraq in March past year killed one British and two American personnel.

Washington again carried out strikes on Kataeb positions.

USA forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.

Most of those units are concentrated at the military complex at the Arbil airport, a coalition source told AFP.

But even as the coalition withdrew more forces, rocket attacks continued, to Washington's growing frustration.

In October, the US threatened to close its embassy there if the rocket attacks did not stop, so hardline groups agreed to an indefinite truce.

The Iraqi government facilitated an indefinite truce with hardline groups and the fire had come to a near halt.

There have been several violations since then, the most recent of which, prior to Monday night, was a volley of rockets targeting the USA embassy on December 20.

In January a year ago, the top Iranian commander, Maj.

The PKK has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, using the rugged mountains of neighbouring northern Iraq as a rear base. Kurdish authorities had blamed Shiite militia groups. The December 2019 killing of a USA 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.

Iraqi officials immediately expressed outrage.

AFP could not independently verify claims of that attack.