Rocket From Iran-Backed Militia Kills US Contractor, Wounds US Service Member in Iraq: Coalition

February 15, 2021 Updated: February 16, 2021

ERBIL—A rocket attack at a U.S.-led Coalition military base in Kurdish northern Iraq on Monday killed a civilian contractor and wounded six other people including a U.S. service member, according to initial reports, the U.S. coalition in Iraq said.

It was the most deadly attack to hit U.S.-led forces for almost a year in Iraq, where tensions have escalated between Iraqi and Kurdish allies of Coalition forces on one side and Iran-aligned militias on the other.

A coalition spokesman said on Twitter the attack hit coalition forces in the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil.

Kurdish security sources said at least three rockets landed near Erbil International Airport in the autonomous region late at night. Reuters reporters heard several loud explosions and saw a fire break out near the airport.

U.S. troops occupy a military base adjacent to the civilian airport.

A statement from the Kurdish interior ministry said a number of rockets were fired towards Erbil and its outskirts around 9:30 p.m. local time and some people were wounded but it offered no further details.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday night, “We are outraged by today’s rocket attack in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region … 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.”

Blinken added that he has reached out to Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government to offer U.S. support for an investigation and to “hold accountable those responsible.”

An Iranian regime-aligned Shia militia group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam (‘The Avengers of the Blood Brigades’) claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.S.-led base, saying it targeted the “American occupation” in Iraq. The Epoch Times cannot confirm the veracity of the claim.

Groups that some Iraqi officials say have links with the Iranian regime have claimed a series of rocket and roadside attacks against coalition forces, contractors working for the coalition and U.S. installations including the embassy in Baghdad in recent months.

The last deadly attack to target the coalition killed one British and two American personnel in March last year. Another attack in September last year thought to have been targeting Baghdad’s international airport killed six Iraqi civilians. The United State condemned the attack.

Tension between the United States and Iran across the Middle East have become more overt in the last few years, ending most recently in a targeted drone strike by U.S. forces that killed Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

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.

The State Department also said that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

By John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.