Egypt condemns deadly rocket attack on Erbil in Iraq - Politics - Egypt

Wednesday, 17 Feb, 2021

Iraqi and USA officials deepened an investigation Tuesday into a deadly rocket attack on a US military base in Iraqi Kurdistan, as they sought to establish how militants managed to strike one of the country's most heavily guarded facilities.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late Monday the United States was "outraged" by the attack.

The group Saraya Awliya al-Dam said it targeted the base over its "American occupation" in Iraq.

Coalition spokesman Wayne Marotto said three rockets hit Arbil airport, killing one foreign civilian contractor who is not an American national.

A spokesperson from the Kurdish Regional Government's health ministry said that one of the injured was in a critical condition.

A US defense official told The Washington Post that the attack appeared to involve 14 rockets targeting a USA facility near the Erbil airport in northeastern Iraq.

Barzani had earlier condemned the attack "in the strongest terms", while Iraqi President Barham Saleh called it a "dangerous escalation and a criminal terrorist act".

Tension between the United States and Iran across the Middle East have become more overt in the last few years, ending most recently in a targeted drone strike by USA forces that killed Iranian military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Following the attack, security forces deployed around the airport and helicopters could be heard on the city's edges, an AFP correspondent said.

These groups are vehemently opposed to the US -led coalition, which has been based in Iraq since 2014 to help local forces fight back the Islamic State group.

USA forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.

One strike in late 2019 that killed an American contractor almost delivered Washington and Tehran to the brink of war when the United States responded to the escalating tit-for-tat by assassinating Soleimani in early 2020.

Trump had said the death of a US contractor would be a red line and provoke USA escalation in Iraq. "I've instructed security services to start a full investigation and spoke with Prime Minister al-Kadhimi on ways to cooperate and identify the outlaws behind this terror attack".

Since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group in late 2017, the coalition presence has been reduced to fewer than 3,500 troops, 2,500 of them American. "We call for restraint and for close Baghdad-Erbil collaboration to bring culprits to justice".

A USA drone strike that killed Iran's military mastermind Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January 2020 sent the region to the brink of a full-scale confrontation.

The group claimed that it fired 24 rockets from an area 7 kilometers away from the US-occupied al-Tahrir military base, all of which hit their targets as the coalition air defenses failed to intercept the rockets.

"The modus operandi is very similar to other Iranian proxy attacks we have seen in the past", said Fabian Hinz, a Berlin-based independent analyst with expertise in Middle East missile programs. Kurdish authorities had blamed Shiite militia groups.