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Lethal rocket assault at US-led navy base in Kurdish northern Iraq

A volley of rockets focusing on an airbase in Iraq’s Kurdistan area killed a international civilian contractor and wounded 5 others and a US soldier, the US-led coalition stated.

The late Monday assault was the primary time Western navy or diplomatic installations have been focused in Iraq in practically two months, after a string of such incidents.

Below former US President Donald Trump, Washington had vowed that the killing of an American nationwide in such a rocket assault would immediate a mass bombing marketing campaign in Iraq, though Iraqi officers are uncertain if the Biden administration would keep on with the coverage.

At round 9:30 pm (1830 GMT), an AFP reporter heard a number of loud explosions within the northwestern outskirts of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan area. 

Iraqi and Western safety sources informed AFP that at the least three rockets have been fired within the course of the town’s airport, the place international troops are primarily based as a part of a global alliance combating the Islamic State group. 

Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed to AFP that the lifeless contractor was not Iraqi, however couldn’t give quick particulars on the sufferer’s nationality.

Two different rockets hit residential neighbourhoods on Erbil’s outskirts.

Delovan Jalal, the top of Erbil’s well being directorate, informed AFP at the least 5 civilians have been wounded and one was in vital situation. 

In a press release, the Kurdistan area’s inside ministry confirmed “several rockets” had hit the town and stated safety companies had launched a “detailed investigation”, urging civilians to remain residence till additional discover. 

Following the assault, safety forces deployed across the airport and helicopters may very well be heard on the town’s edges, an AFP correspondent stated.  

‘Harmful escalation’ 

Iraqi President Barham Saleh tweeted that the assault marked a “dangerous escalation and a criminal terrorist act”.

Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the autonomous Kurdish area, condemned the assault “in the strongest terms”.

He stated he had spoken to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi in order that safety forces primarily based in Arbil and Baghdad may cooperate on the investigation. 

Two intelligence sources confirmed to AFP that the assault was carried out from inside the autonomous Kurdish area.

One other US official stated the projectiles have been 107 mm rockets, fired round eight kilometres (5 miles) west of Erbil. 

The assault was claimed on-line by a shadowy group calling itself “Awliyaa al-Dam,” or “Guardians of Blood.” 

Round a dozen such teams have cropped up within the final yr claiming rocket assaults, however US and Iraqi safety officers have informed AFP they consider them to be entrance teams for distinguished pro-Iran factions together with Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq. 

Each teams are vehemently against the US-led coalition, deployed in Iraq since 2014 to assist native forces beat again the Islamic State group.

Western navy and diplomatic websites have been focused by dozens of rockets and roadside bombs because the autumn of 2019, with each international and Iraqi personnel killed. 

In December 2019, a US contractor was killed in a rocket assault on a base in Kirkuk province, prompting the US to reply with air strikes towards Kataeb Hezbollah.

In March 2020, one other rocket assault killed two People — a soldier and a contractor — and a British soldier.

Washington once more carried out strikes on Kataeb positions.

Since Iraq declared victory towards IS in late 2017, the coalition has drawn all the way down to beneath 3,500 troops in complete, 2,500 of them People.

Most are concentrated on the navy advanced on the Erbil airport, a coalition supply informed AFP.

A uncommon goal 

However even because the coalition withdrew extra forces, rocket assaults continued, to Washington’s rising frustration. 

In October, the US threatened to shut its embassy in Baghdad until the assaults stopped.

The Iraqi authorities facilitated an indefinite truce with hardline teams and the hearth had come to a close to halt. 

However there have been violations, the latest of which had been a twig of rockets focusing on the US embassy on December 20.

Erbil has very not often been focused, though Iranian forces fired missiles on the similar airport in January 2020, just a few days after Washington assassinated key common Qasem Soleimani on the Baghdad airport.

The newest assault got here amid rising tensions in north Iraq, the place neighbouring Turkey has been waging a fierce land and air assault towards the Kurdistan Staff’ Occasion (PKK) since June 2020.

The PKK has fought an insurgency towards the Turkish state since 1984, utilizing the rugged mountains of neighbouring northern Iraq as a rear base. 

There was little remark from the Kurdish authorities in Iraq’s north or authorities in Baghdad however in current days, pro-Iran armed factions have made unusually robust public feedback.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq threatened to battle Turkish troops if their operations expanded and one other pro-Iran faction, Ashab Ahl al-Kahf, claimed on Monday it had attacked a Turkish navy base alongside the Iraqi border.

Ashab Ahl al-Kahf has claimed earlier rocket assaults on US bases however is assumed by Iraqi and Western officers to be a “smokescreen” for different teams. 

AFP couldn’t independently confirm claims of that assault.


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