Rockets strike near US base in Iraq, killing 1, wounding 8

Foreign Contractor Killed 5 Others Injured After Rockets Hit Iraq Airbase

No one immediately claimed responsibility.

A coalition spokesman said on Twitter the attack hit coalition forces in the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, and that more details would follow. He did not reveal the nationality of the dead contractor and said this was under investigation.

At least two civilians were also wounded and material damage was caused to cars and other property, security officials said, without providing more details. The rockets were launched from an area south of Irbil near the border with Kirkuk province and fell on some residential areas close to the airport.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late Monday the United States was "outraged" by the attack.

Attacks targeting Irbil airport are rare, with Monday's rockets the first to strike the area in five months.

On September 30, when six rockets hit near the airport, Kurdish authorities said they had been launched from a pick-up truck in the nearby town of Bartella in Ninevah province, which falls under federal government control.

The U.S. has attributed the attacks to Iraq's Shiite militias, which are backed by Iran and have pushed for the withdrawal of American troops, some 2,500 of which remain in the country assisting security forces battling the Islamic State group.

There has been little comment from the Kurdish government in Iraq's north or authorities in Baghdad but in recent days, pro-Iran armed factions have made unusually tough public comments. "This aggression will not stand", he tweeted.

The U.S. also retaliated with strikes on militia sites in Iraq and Syria last March, after rockets fell on Camp Taji, killing two U.S. troops and a British medic and wounding over a dozen others.

In October, the USA threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad unless the attacks stopped.

Attacks on bases housing US forces, often involving 107mm Katyusha rockets, have become a frequent occurrence in the past almost two years, particularly in and around Baghdad, where they have also hit civilian areas near military and diplomatic facilities.

Ashab Ahl al-Kahf has claimed previous rocket attacks on USA bases but is thought by Iraqi and Western officials to be a "smokescreen" for other groups.

It was the most deadly attack to hit USA -led forces in nearly a year in Iraq, where tensions have escalated between US forces, their Iraqi and Kurdish allies on one side and Iran-aligned militias on the other.

Mr. Trump had said the death of a US contractor would be a red line and provoke USA escalation in Iraq.

Following a deadly rocket attack at a base near Kirkuk that killed a USA 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.

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.



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