Iraq rocket attack kills US contractor, wounds military personnel

Washington calls on Baghdad to take steps to protect American interests in country in face of attacks.

Iraq - US troops
About 5,000 US troops are currently based in Iraq [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

A rocket attack in northern Iraq has killed an American contractor and wounded several military personnel, the US-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has said.

“One US civilian contractor was killed and several US service members and Iraqi personnel were wounded in a rocket attack [on Friday] on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk,” the coalition said in a statement.

“Iraqi Security Forces are leading the response and investigation,” it added, without specifying who might be responsible for the attack.

US interests in Iraq have been hit by a flurry of rocket attacks since late October that have not been claimed, but which Washington has blamed on Shia paramilitary groups backed by Iran, which wields growing influence in the country, particularly through armed groups.

Washington has called on Baghdad to take steps to protect American interests in the country in the face of the attacks.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters earlier this month that he had expressed “concern about the optics in attacks on bases in Iraq where US troops and material might be,” in a call with acting Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The United States has “a right of self-defence, that we would ask our Iraqi partners to take proactive actions … to get that under control because it’s not good for anybody.”

Abdul Mahdi’s office called on everyone “to spare no effort to prevent an escalation that will threaten all parties,” warning that “unilateral decisions will trigger negative reactions that will make it more difficult to control the situation.”

ISIL fighters operating in the area have turned to insurgency-style tactics aimed at bringing down the government in Baghdad ever since it retook all territory and declared victory against them in December 2017.

However, a senior US military official said this month that attacks by Iranian-backed groups on bases hosting US forces in Iraq were gathering pace and becoming more sophisticated, pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation.

About 5,000 US troops are currently based in Iraq.

Source: News Agencies