Rockets strike near U.S. base in Iraq, killing 1, wounding 8
Feb 16 2021
A USA service member and five other contractors were injured when rockets hits sites in the Irbil city, including a base used by the US-led coalition.
Several other rockets landed in residential areas of the city, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, including one close to the Chinese Consulate.
Groups that some Iraqi officials say have links with Iran have claimed a series of rocket and roadside bomb attacks against coalition forces, contractors working for the coalition and US installations - including the embassy in Baghdad - in recent months.
Following the attack, security forces deployed around the airport and helicopters could be heard on the city's edges, an AFP correspondent said.
The frequency of attacks diminished late previous year ahead of US President Joe Biden's inauguration.
Tension between the United States and Iran sent the Middle East to the edge of a full-scale confrontation in January 2020 after a USA drone strike killed Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
People inspect the area where one of the fired rockets was hit at Bahtiyari neighborhood on Monday in Erbil, Iraq.
Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish region, condemned the attack "in the strongest terms".
It says Iraq no longer needs the help it did in the past to fight the Islamic State group, though USA officials have acknowledged that militia attacks also factored into the decision to move troops to bases more easily defended.
Iraqi and Western security sources told AFP that at least three rockets were fired in the direction of the city's airport, where foreign troops are based as part of an global alliance fighting the Islamic State group. It was not clear whether anti-rocket defense systems installed at the base were activated by Monday's attack. He did not reveal the nationality of the dead contractor and said this was under investigation.
The Kurdish ministry of health said three civilians were wounded in Monday's attack.
Broken glass is seen at the Bright Castle Motors building on Feb 15, 2021.
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.
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.
Several civilians off base were also injured by rockets that fell near the base, Kurdistan Regional Government officials said separately.
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.
Tensions between Iran and the USA have played out on Iraqi soil.