The United States is “outraged” by a deadly rocket attack on Monday that occurred near Irbil International Airport in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
At least one person died and several others were injured, including an American service member and several American contractors, Blinken said.
“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,” he said in a statement.
At least three rockets hit areas between the airport in the Kurdish-run semi-autonomous region and the nearby base that houses US troops around 9:30 p.m. local time Monday night.
A spokesman for the US-led coalition said the person killed was a civilian contractor, but did not reveal the nationality of the contractor.
A statement from the Kurdistan Interior Ministry said that “several people” had been injured based on a preliminary investigation.
Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a statement that the attack marked a “dangerous escalation” and was “a terrorist criminal act aimed at national efforts to protect the security of the country and the safety of citizens.”
“We have no choice but to firmly strengthen our efforts to eradicate the forces of terror and attempts to plunge the country into chaos.”
Masrour Barzani, prime minister of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, said he condemned “in the strongest terms tonight’s rocket attacks on Erbil. I urge all Kurds to remain calm.”
He said he had instructed the security services to begin a full investigation into the attack.
The Kurdish authorities warned Irbil residents to stay away from the target areas and remain in their homes.
Although no one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, a little-known Shiite militant group later claimed responsibility.
“The American occupation will not be safe from our attacks in any inch of the homeland, not even in Kurdistan, where we promise that we will carry out other qualitative operations,” the claim said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
Attacks on Irbil airport are rare, and Monday’s rockets are the first to hit the area in five months.
Rocket attacks have frequently targeted the US presence in Baghdad, including the US Embassy, as well as convoys carrying materials for the US-led coalition.
Former US President Donald Trump had said that the death of an American contractor would be a red line and trigger an American escalation in Iraq. The December 2019 killing of an American civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Kirkuk sparked a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that brought the country to the brink of indirect warfare.
US forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 troops and are no longer engaged in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism