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Several American troops wounded and a US contractor killed in rocket attack on Kirkuk base

By: Shawn Snow

Several American troops wounded and a US contractor killed in rocket attack on Kirkuk base
Members of an Iraqi Shiite militant group called Imam Ali Brigades launch rockets against Islamic State extremist positions during clashes in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Officials with the U.S.-led mission to defeat ISIS said Friday that a U.S. civilian contractor was killed and several American troops were wounded in a rocket attack targeting an Iraqi base in Kirkuk.

The attack, which occurred Friday around 7:20 p.m. local time in Iraq, also wounded several Iraqi personnel, officials with Operation Inherent Resolve told Military Times in an emailed statement.

The Iraqi military posted to social media Friday that several missiles struck the K1 camp in Kirkuk, which houses coalition forces.

“Iraqi Security Forces are leading the response and investigation. Further information will be released as it becomes available,” OIR said in a statement Friday.

OIR and Iraqi officials provided no other details about the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack against the Kirkuk facility.

U.S. officials believe Iranian-backed militias are behind a recent spate of rocket attacks that have targeted U.S. bases and interests in Iraq over the last couple months.

A U.S. official told Military Times that Iran-backed militias are now using more lethal and longer range 122 mm rockets in their attacks.

Friday’s attack on Kirkuk is at least the eleventh rocket attack targeting an outpost housing American forces in the last two months.

U.S. officials have warned Iran and its proxies to halt rocket attacks in the country. In mid-December Secretary of Defense Mark Esper phoned Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and asked for help to stop the rocket attacks.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran and its leaders in December of a “decisive U.S. response” if the regime or its militias harm American troops or allies in the region.

“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 U.S. response,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“We take the recent rocket attacks in Iraq seriously as do our Iraqi Security Forces partners, who are investigating these events,” OIR said in a previous statement to Military Times, about the recent spate of rocket attacks in Iraq.

“We have made clear that attacks on U.S. and Coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and we retain the right to defend ourselves,” OIR said.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill in December, Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley warned Iran about its recent malign behavior in the region.

“Iran should not mistake the United States’ restraint for an unwillingness to respond with decisive military force should our forces or interests be attacked," Esper told lawmakers in December.

"We are in a period of heightened risk with respect to Iran,” Milley told lawmakers in December.

“The ball is in the Iranian court," Milley said. How they respond and the size and scope of that response will determine a U.S. answer, he explained to lawmakers.

The U.S. has deployed roughly 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East over the last six months to respond to Iranian malign behavior.

Esper has said the Pentagon is considering deploying additional forces to the region.


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