VOA – A rocket attack in northern Iraq late Monday killed a contractor for the U.S.-led coalition and injured at least six other people, according to coalition and Iraqi officials.
Coalition spokesman U.S. Army Col. Wayne Marotto said early Tuesday a total of 14 rockets were launched, and that three hit an airbase housing U.S. troops near Irbil’s airport.
Marotto said the contractor killed was not an American, and that the injured included eight other civilian contractors and a U.S. service member.
A little-known group called Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We are outraged by today’s rocket attack in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement late Monday. “We express our condolences to the loved ones of the civilian contractor killed in this attack, and to the innocent Iraqi people and their families who are suffering these ruthless acts of violence. I have reached out to Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to discuss the incident and to pledge our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible.”
Barzani said on Twitter he had spoken with Blinken “about the cowardly attack” and that the two sides would “coordinate closely in the investigation.”
I spoke with @SecBlinken about the cowardly attack on Erbil. We agreed to coordinate closely in the investigation to identify the outlaws behind it -mb.— Masrour Barzani پابەندین# (@masrour_barzani) February 15, 2021
The last coalition deaths from hostile acts in Iraq came nearly a year ago when a rocket attack on a base north of Baghdad killed two U.S. service members and one from Britain. Tensions have escalated between militias aligned with Iran on one side and U.S. forces, their Iraqi and Kurdish allies on the other side.
Iraqi President Barham Saleh tweeted that the attack marked a “dangerous escalation and a criminal terrorist act.”
The head of the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said such “heinous, reckless acts pose grave threats to stability.”
“Iraq must be shielded from external rivalries,” she tweeted Tuesday. “We call for restraint and for close Baghdad-Erbil collaboration to bring culprits to justice.”
The group Saraya Awliya al-Dam said it targeted the base over its “American occupation” in Iraq.