Rocket attack hits U.S.-led base in Iraq

Rocket attack hits U.S.-led base in Iraq

A rocket attack on the airport in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on Monday (Feb 15) killed a civilian contractor with the US-led military coalition and wounded six others, including a United States service member, according to a coalition spokesperson.

Attacks on bases housing US forces, often using 107mm Katyusha rockets, have occurred frequently in the past two years, particularly in and around Baghdad, where they have also hit civilian areas near military and diplomatic facilities. "Iraq must be shielded from (external) rivalries".

"Such heinous, reckless acts pose grave threats to stability", Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert wrote on Twitter.

The Kurdish ministry of health said three civilians were wounded in Monday's attack.

U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto said Tuesday a civilian contractor with the coalition who was not a U.S. citizen was killed. Five Americans, including the service member, were being examined for concussions, he said.

By Tuesday morning, the remnants of the rockets had been cleared, leaving small craters in the paved streets of Arbil and in the plaster walls outside homes. The US-led coalition said the projectiles were 107mm. "We're also people, and we want to live".

The U.S. -led military coalition in the region said approximately 14 rockets were fired toward the city of Erbil on Monday, with three hitting the key air base used by the U.S. military in its campaign against Islamic State.

In a statement, Blinken said he had reached out to the KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani "to discuss the incident and to pledge our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible".

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

Several of the attacks have been deadly, with both foreign and Iraqi personnel killed.

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.

It was the deadliest attack on US -led forces there in nearly a year where tensions have escalated between USA -aligned Iraqi and Kurdish forces and Iran-aligned militias.

One strike in late 2019 that killed an American contractor almost delivered Washington and Tehran to the brink of war when the United States responded to the escalating tit-for-tat by assassinating Soleimani in early 2020.

In Washington, a White House spokesperson said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the attack in Irbil, but offered no other comment or details.

Since Iraq declared victory against IS in late 2017, the coalition has drawn down to under 3,500 troops in total, 2,500 of them Americans.

Most of those units are concentrated at the military complex at the Arbil airport, a coalition source told AFP. His administration did not consult the Iraqi government in advance, amid concerns it would leak to Soleimani, sparking protests and culminating in the non-binding vote by a majority of the Iraqi parliament previous year to expel USA troops.

The same groups have recently vowed to boost their military activity in the Kurdistan region, ostensibly against a Turkish incursion.

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