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Iraq rocket assault hits US forces, killing contractor

ERBIL (Reuters) – A rocket assault on US-led forces in northern Iraq on Monday killed a civilian contractor and injured a US service member, the US coalition in Iraq mentioned through the deadliest assault in almost a yr.

The rocket barrage struck in and close to a army air base occupied by the US-led coalition at Erbil Worldwide Airport. Two US officers mentioned the contractor who was killed was not American. The coalition mentioned 5 different contractors have been injured, with out giving particulars.

The assault, claimed by a little-known group that some Iraqi officers say has ties to Iran, escalates stress within the Center East as Washington and Tehran discover a possible return to the Iran nuclear deal.

Armed teams aligned with Iran in Iraq and Yemen have launched assaults in opposition to the USA and its Arab allies in latest weeks, together with a drone assault on a Saudi airport and rockets in opposition to the American embassy in Baghdad.

Many of the incidents resulted in no casualties, however saved stress on US troops and US allies within the area early in Joe Biden’s presidency.

Biden’s administration is contemplating a return to the Iran nuclear deal, which his predecessor Donald Trump deserted in 2018, which aimed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

U.S. allies reminiscent of France have mentioned any new negotiations ought to be strict and embrace Saudi Arabia, Iran’s fundamental regional enemy. Iran insists it should solely revert to respecting the 2015 accord if Washington lifts crippling sanctions.

Security forces gather in the wake of a rocket attack in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in northern Iraq, on February 15, 2021. - A volley of rockets targeted the Kurdish regional capital in northern Iraq late in the day, authorities said, as security sources confirmed that at least one hit a military compound housing US-led coalition troops.  (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP) (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP via Getty Images)
Safety forces collect within the wake of a rocket assault in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Area in northern Iraq, on February 15, 2021. – A volley of rockets focused the Kurdish regional capital in northern Iraq late within the day, authorities mentioned, as safety sources confirmed that at the very least one hit a army compound housing US-led coalition troops. (Picture by SAFIN HAMED / AFP) (Picture by SAFIN HAMED / AFP through Getty Pictures)

US OUTRAGE

American-Iranian stress has typically performed out on Iraqi soil.

A US drone strike that killed Iranian army mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020 despatched the area to the brink of a full-scale confrontation.

A rocket assault on a base in northern Iraq in March final yr killed a Briton and two People.

Monday’s rocket assault in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Area, was the deadliest since then in opposition to coalition forces.

Kurdish safety sources mentioned three rockets hit across the airport and at the very least two extra landed close by. Reuters reporters heard a number of loud explosions and noticed a hearth escape close to the airport.

US troops occupy a army base adjoining to the civilian airport. A 3rd US official, talking on situation of anonymity, mentioned the US serviceman’s damage was a concussion.

A bunch calling themselves Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed accountability for the assault on the US-led base, claiming it was concentrating on “the US occupation” in Iraq. He supplied no proof of his declare.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned Monday night that the USA was “outraged” by the assault.

In an announcement, Blinken mentioned he had contacted the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Authorities, Masrour Barzani, “to debate the incident and to pledge our help for all efforts to research and maintain these accountable to account.”

Teams some Iraqi officers say have ties to Iran have claimed accountability for a sequence of roadside rocket and bomb assaults in opposition to coalition forces, coalition contractors and US installations – together with the embassy in Baghdad – in latest months.

The Iraqi authorities led by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has sided with the USA in opposition to militias aligned with Iran however has struggled to include highly effective paramilitary teams.

(Reporting by John Davison in Erbil, Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad; extra reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Modifying by Hugh Lawson, Dan Grebler, Howard Goller, Sonya Hepinstall and Gerry Doyle)

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