Thursday, 25 February, 2021

Iraq rocket attack kills contractor, wounds U.S. service member, coalition says

Foreign Contractor Killed 5 Others Injured After Rockets Hit Iraq Airbase It's the first time in 2 months that US installations have been targeted in Iraq
Ginger Lawrence | 16 February, 2021, 05:36

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

The attack was the first time Western military or diplomatic installations have been targeted in Iraq in almost two months, after a string of such incidents.

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 USA installations - including the embassy in Baghdad - in recent months. Reuters reporters heard several loud explosions and saw a fire break out near the airport.

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

One civilian contractor with the coalition was killed and five others wounded, a coalition spokesman, Col. Wayne Marotto, said in a statement posted on social media.

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. -led coalition did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the situation at the military base on the airfield. A statement from Kurdistan's interior ministry said "several people" had been injured based on a preliminary investigation. The episode culminated with Tehran launching a dozen missiles at the Irbil airport and western Iraq's Al Asad Air Base in January 2020, which wounded over 100 American troops. President Barham Saleh tweeted that targeting Erbil was a grave escalation, and undermined efforts to secure the safety of Iraqi people.

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

Marotto did not reveal the nationality of the dead contractor.

Amid Fear of Arrest, Protests Maintain Steam Despite Myanmar Junta Tightening Laws
But fresh protests again flared in the city, including near the central bank where troops were deployed. In Nay Pyi Taw, over 30 student protesters were arrested by police.

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. Another attack in September previous year thought to have been targeting Baghdad's worldwide airport killed six Iraqi civilians.

USA 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.

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.

In March 2020, another rocket attack killed two Americans - a soldier and a contractor - and a British soldier.

But even as the coalition withdrew more forces, rocket attacks continued, to Washington's growing frustration.

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.

The Iraqi government facilitated an indefinite truce with hardline groups and the fire had come to a near halt.

In January past year, the top Iranian commander, Maj.

The latest attack came amid rising tensions in north Iraq, where neighbouring Turkey has been waging a fierce land and air assault against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) since June 2020.