US Defense Contractor Killed and Several Troops Wounded in Iraq Rocket Attack
(December 27, 2019) — An American defense contractor was killed in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk on Friday, the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State said in a statement. Several US service members and Iraqi personnel were wounded.
The contractor’s name has not been released.
Colonel Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, said Iraqi security forces were leading the investigation and response to the attack
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Such attacks have taken place on several occasions over the past few months, with US officials for the most part blaming Iran-backed fighters. In November, a barrage of Katyusha rockets targeted an Iraqi air base that houses American troops south of the city of Mosul on Friday
The Iraqi military said earlier Friday that several rockets were launched into Iraq’s K1 military base, which houses US and Iraqi forces, according to Reuters.
Iraq has been roiled since October 1 by protests that have left more than 450 people dead, the vast majority of them demonstrators killed by security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition. The mass uprisings prompted the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi late last month.
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US Conducts Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria after Contractor Killed, American Troops Injured in Rocket Attack
Military jet fighters conducted “precision defensive strikes” on five sites of Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Jonathan Hoffman, a spokesperson for the Pentagon told Fox News. Two defense officials added that Air Force F-15 jet fighters carried out the strikes.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien traveled Sunday to Mar-a-Lago in Florida to meet with President Trump and discuss the strikes, a senior administration official told Fox News.
US officials have blamed the militia for a rocket barrage Friday that killed a US defense contractor, wounded four US troops and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq.
Military forces said the attackers fired more than 30 rockets in Friday’s assault — the 11th rocket attack on US and Iraqi forces since late October, according to a US defense official.
Five locations — including three Kataeb Hezbollah areas in Iraq and two in Syria — were targeted, Hoffman said in a statement.
He said the US strikes will weaken the group’s ability to carry out future attacks on Americans and their Iraqi government allies.
Iraq Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi denounced the strikes, saying that the leader of the Iranian-based militia is a “US designated terrorist.”
“Aby Mohandis (is) blamed for the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Kuwait two months after Beirut,” he said. “But his militia fought against ISIS and is under the umbrella of Iraq’s security forces.”
Earlier this month, Pompeo blamed Iran for two separate rocket attacks on the Baghdad International Airport, on Dec. 9 and 11, where US and Iraqi forces are located on the other side of the commercial airport.
Pompeo said if any Americans were harmed in the future, it would “be answered with a decisive US response.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., responded: “Today’s strikes against Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria are a justified response to the killing of an American and the wounding of several American service members and Iraqis. Tehran must stop attacking Americans or else face even graver consequences.”
Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called the attack an “important moment in the US’s Iraq policy.”
“Especially over the past decade, counterterrorism has not only encouraged inertia, but also has served as a smokescreen to put the US in a de facto alliance with Iran, including the Obama administration providing Iranian-led militias with cover and support for ground operations,” he added. “The Trump administration has been slowly moving away from that, first through quiet acquiescence to ti Israeli strikes and now by retaliating directly against attacks by these militias. This change in posture is as necessary as it is overdue.”
Nicole Darrah covers breaking and trending news for FoxNews.com. Rich Edson, Mike Emanuel and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report. Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes..