US contractor killed and forces wounded in rocket attack in Iraq

US contractor killed and forces wounded in rocket attack in Iraq
US contractor killed and forces wounded in rocket attack in Iraq

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - One US civilian contractor was killed and several American forces were wounded on Friday in an attack on a joint base in Kirkuk, Iraq, the Pentagon announced.

The rocket attack targeted an “Iraqi military base in Kirkuk hosting Coalition troops, on Dec. 27 at 7:20 pm (Iraqi time),” a statement by the US Central Command (Centcom) read. “One U.S. civilian contractor was killed and several US service members and Iraqi personnel were wounded.”

Centcom said, however, that “Iraqi Security Forces are leading the response and investigation,” and that “further information will be released as it becomes available.”

No group claimed responsibility for the incident which follows a series of similar rocket attacks in the last few months targeting joint US-Iraqi bases. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iranian proxies in the country for launching an attack at a joint facility in Baghdad on December 9.

In a statement issued two weeks ago Mr Pompeo threatened Iran with “a decisive US response” if these attacks continue. “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,” Mr Pompeo said. But it was unclear if Friday’s attack crossed a US redline.

Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the intelligence firm Stratfor, said any US response “will depend on who did it.” Right now, the US military is waiting for Iraq to conduct its own investigation.

ISIS is also a suspect. “Kirkuk is typically ISIS territory but we can't totally rule out an Iranian aligned Popular Mobilisation Forces [behind the operation],” Mr Bohl said. Even after its territorial defeat, ISIS continues to carry guerrilla attacks in Kirkuk against Iraqi police and security officials.

If an Iranian proxy group is behind the attack, then “the US will be strongly pressured to retaliate,” Mr Bohl argued. “It will show their proxies are not deterred from harassing troops by US threats and US action in Iraq.” A response, he reckoned, could entail fortifying the bases and/or targeting the group behind the attack.

Updated: December 28, 2019 03:54 AM

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