Iraq rocket attack kills contractor, wounds US service member, coalition says

Carla Harmon
February 16, 2021

US Operation Inherent Resolve coalition spokesman Wayne Marotto issued a statement on Twitter, saying that one person was killed and six more, including a US soldier, were injured in the rocket strike in Erbil.

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.

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

The frequency of attacks diminished late previous year ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's inauguration, though now Iran is pressing America to return to Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal.

Tension between the United States and Iran sent the Middle East to the edge of a full-scale confrontation in January 2020 after a US drone strike killed Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

It's the first time in 2 months that USA installations have been targeted in Iraq.

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.

Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish region, condemned the attack "in the strongest terms". 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.

"Three missiles fell in the area of Erbil global airport, security officials were dispersed in the area", the broadcaster said, citing a source in the Iraqi security services. It was not clear whether anti-rocket defense systems installed at the base were activated by Monday's attack.

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

Broken glass is seen at the Bright Castle Motors building on Feb 15, 2021.

In a later statement, a little-known Shiite militant group calling itself the Guardians of Blood Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

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 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 USA forces in recent years.

In a statement, the Kurdistan region's interior ministry confirmed "several rockets" had hit the city and said security agencies had launched a "detailed investigation", urging civilians to stay home until further notice.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is "outraged" by a rocket attack on Monday in the Iraqi Kurdistan region that reportedly killed a civilian contractor and injured several others, including a U.S. service member and several American contractors.

The U.S. -led coalition did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the situation at the military base on the airfield.

Other reports by iNewsToday