A rocket attack in northern Iraq has killed a U.S. defense civilian contractor as well as wounded several American and Iraqi troops on Friday, Dec. 27, officials said according to multiple reports.
Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman for OIR, told AP that Iraqi security forces were leading the investigation and response to the attack.
According to Reuters, Iraqi military said in a statement earlier on Friday that several rockets were launched into Iraq's K1 military base, where U.S. and Iraqi forces are stationed. They added that security sources said they found a launchpad for Katyusha rockets inside an abandoned vehicle near the base. The K1 base lies 9 miles northwest of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, houses U.S. military forces alongside Iraqi forces from the Federal Police and Counter-Terrorism Service, security sources told Reuters. About 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq.
No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, which is at least the 11th such attack in the past two months that has targeted an outpost where U.S. troops stay, the Military Times noted. However, U.S. officials believe Iranian-backed forces are responsible for most of the attacks, with one telling the news outlet that Iran-backed groups have been using lethal and extended range 122 mm rockets in their recent attacks.
In early December, Esper warned that attacks by Iran-backed groups on bases hosting U.S. forces in Iraq were pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation.
Abdul Mahdi resigned in late November, amid anti-government protests over unemployment, government corruption, and a lack of basic services. Abdul Mahdi is now carrying out his duties in a caretaker capacity.
The protests had gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shi'ite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being corrupt and decries the Iranian regime’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.
The mass uprisings have left more than 450 people dead, the vast majority of them demonstrators—killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.
“The United States is seriously concerned by continued attacks against protestors, civic activists, and the media, as well as restrictions on internet access, in Iraq,” Grisham said. “Iraqis won’t stand by as the Iranian regime drains their resources and uses armed groups and political allies to stop them from peacefully expressing their views.”
Esper has said that intelligence and forensic analyses of the rockets and launchers pointed to Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia groups.