The New York Times
Rocket Attack In Iraq Kills A U.S. Military Contractor
Some saw the barrage of rockets aimed at an airport in the northern city of Erbil as a test of the new administration in Washington.
By Sangar Khaleel and Jane Arraf
ERBIL, Iraq — A rocket attack on the airport in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil on Monday killed a civilian contractor with the American-led military coalition and wounded six others, including a U.S. service member, according to a coalition spokesman.
Several other rockets landed in residential areas of the city, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including one close to the Chinese Consulate.
The attack, rare in the normally peaceful Kurdish city, raised tensions already heightened by threats of Iran-backed militias on American targets in Iraq. It was not clear who carried it out, but previous attacks have been attributed to militias funded and directed by Iran.
Iran has made clear that it intends to retaliate further for the American drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020 that killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, and a senior Iraqi security official. Days after that strike, the Iranian government launched missile attacks against U.S. forces at the Ain al Assad air base in Iraq’s Anbar Province, wounding more than 100 troops.
On Monday, minutes after the rocket attack on Erbil, the Kurdish regional government called on residents to stay indoors and the international airport canceled departing and arriving flights.
The United States military has drawn down the number of its troops in Iraq to under 2,500 and has pulled out of several bases there over the past two years. It says Iraq no longer needs the help it did in the past to fight the Islamic State, though American officials have acknowledged that militia attacks also factored into the decision to move troops to bases more easily defended.
The military side of Erbil’s airport is one of three remaining bases with a significant number of U.S. troops. It was not clear whether anti-rocket defense systems installed at the base were activated by Monday’s attack.