Foreign troops stationed in Iraq's Irbil as part of international efforts to fight Islamic State (Isis) terrorists were targeted with rocket fire late on Monday, killing at least one personnel and injuring five more. At least three rockets were fired targeting Baghdad's airport, AFP reported. The attack in Irbil was deadiest strike at US forces in a in a year.
The target of the attack was the base housing US troops, but the dead personnel is a foreign civilian contractor, reports said. One U.S. service member was injured in the attack, officials in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region said. Militant group Saraya Awliya al-Dam claimed responsibility for the attack. The details of the foreign civilian contractor killed in the attack were not revealed. However, senior Iraqi officials said the dead contractor was not Iraqi, AFP reported.
Iraqi President Barham Saleh said the attack showed there was a "dangerous escalation and a criminal terrorist act." Masrour Barzani, autonomous Kurdish region's prime minister, also condemned the attack.
The turn of events in Iraq would have marked a decisive shift in the US combat policy under the Trump administration, but it is not clear if President Joe Biden would take the same route pronounced by Trump. President Trump had said near the end of his tenure that any loss of US life in Iraq due to attacks by Iran and its proxies in the region would trigger severe reprisals from the US.
Who are 'Awliyaa al-Dam'?
The terror outfit that claimed the rocket attack is a shadowy fringe group operating in the region. Reports say a dozen or more radical outfits have come up in the region in recent times, launching attacks against Western bases. The name 'Awliyaa al-Dam translates into "Guardians of Blood." According to geopolitical experts these groups are front organizations for pro-Iran factions like Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
A US contractor was killed in a rocket attack in Kirkuk province in 2019, while another attack in March 2020 killed two Americans including a soldier.