Missiles strike Kirkuk airbase, killing US contractor, wounding others

Two rockets landed at the K1 airbase of Iraq’s disputed Kirkuk province on Friday evening, according to a security source.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Two rockets landed at an airbase in Iraq’s disputed Kirkuk province on Friday evening, according to a security source, adding to a list of previous attacks targeting compounds hosting US military personnel in December.

“Two rockets struck Kirkuk’s K1 military base,” the source told Kurdistan 24, adding that a police officer had been wounded. A number of “American soldiers” are reportedly at the compound. Further details were not released.

The Iraqi military communications center known as the Security Media Cell confirmed that the incident had occurred, saying, “a number of missiles” had landed at the base. It added that it would follow up with more details at a later time.

Following this, the international anti-ISIS coalition issued a statement explaining that the attack had killed one American civilian and wounded multiple US and Iraqi military personnel.

“One U.S. civilian contractor was killed and several U.S. service members and Iraqi personnel were wounded in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk hosting Coalition troops,” it said.

The incident occurred at 7:20 p.m. local time, it added. “Iraqi Security Forces are leading the response and investigation. Further information will be released as it becomes available.”

Reuters quoted an official as saying that Washington was looking into the potential involvement of the Iranian-backed Shia militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah.

The US has previously accused several Iranian-backed militias of carrying out such attacks on military facilities where a number of its troops as well Iraqi security forces are based, including two earlier this month.

Sporadic attacks have taken place in or near multiple such compounds throughout the year—these sites include Ayn al-Asad airbase, Qayyarah base, K1 base, and Balad airbase.

Early November, a salvo of 17 Katyusha rockets struck Nineveh Province’s Qayyarah base hosting Iraqi and anti-ISIS coalition forces. The Iraqi defense ministry had accused “terrorist elements” of being behind it, indicating that sleeper cells of the so-called Islamic State may have carried out the attack.

Read More: Iraq says ‘terrorists’ fired rocket barrage at base hosting US troops

In two attacks on the same compound a mere two days apart, rockets landed near a diplomatic security facility located inside the Baghdad International Airport, injuring five members of Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service—two of whom were in critical condition.

In another incident in early December, five missiles landed inside the Ayn al-Asad Airbase, which houses US troops, located in Anbar Province. It did not cause any casualties or material damage, according to press releases at the time. It was unclear who carried out this attack.

Related Article: Iraq says army thwarted a missile attack on air base used by US-led coalition

In a statement in mid-December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran and its proxies against attacking such facilities, affirming that Washington will continue working “hand-in-hand with our Iraqi partners.”

Read More: US warns Iran against strikes on Iraqi, Coalition forces

“We must also use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harm Americans, our allies, or our interests will be answered with a decisive US response.”

US-Iran tensions have been ongoing since Washington withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers to curb nuclear weapons ambitions. The US has since imposed multiple rounds of sanctions on the Iranian government and top officials, crippling the country’s economy. 

Editing by John J. Catherine