United States 'outraged' by deadly rocket attack on Irbil

Pablo Tucker
February 16, 2021

Kurdish security sources said at least three rockets landed near Erbil International Airport in the autonomous region late at night.

At least two civilians were also wounded and material damage was caused to cars and other property, security officials said, without providing more details. A third USA official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US service member's injury was a concussion.

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.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

A group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed responsibility for the attack on the USA -led base, saying it targeted the "American occupation" in Iraq. It claimed firing 24 rockets that avoided the airport's defenses, specifically naming an automatic machine gun known as a C-RAM that protects American installations in Iraq.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was pledging its support for investigating the attack and holding accountable those who were responsible.

Former President Donald Trump said at the time that the strike was in response to the threat Iran and Soleimani were planning to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which had just been attacked.

In December 2019, a U.S. contractor was killed in a rocket attack on a base in Kirkuk province, prompting the USA to respond with air strikes against Kataeb Hezbollah.

The airfield was hit by a barrage of six rockets on September 30, 2020, which officials have said were fired from a truck in nearby Nineveh province, which falls under the control of the federal government of Iraq. Kurdish authorities had blamed Shiite militia groups. "This aggression will not stand", he tweeted.

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

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.

Rocket attacks have frequently target the US presence in Baghdad, including the US Embassy, as well as convoys ferrying materials for the US-led coalition.

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

The United States military has drawn down the number of its troops in Iraq to under 2,500 and has pulled out of several bases there over the past two years.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq threatened to fight Turkish troops if their operations expanded and another pro-Iran faction, Ashab Ahl al-Kahf, claimed on Monday it had attacked a Turkish military base along the Iraqi border. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters.

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