Rocket attack in northern Iraq kills US contractor, wounds military personnel
A rocket attack in northern Iraq killed an American contractor and wounded several military personnel on Friday, the US-led coalition said.
"One US civilian contractor was killed and several US service members and Iraqi personnel were wounded in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base," the coalition said in a statement cited by AFP.
"Iraqi Security Forces are leading the response and investigation," it added, without specifying who might be responsible for the attack.
US interests in Iraq have been hit by a flurry of rocket attacks since late October that have not been claimed, but which Washington has blamed on Shia paramilitary groups backed by Iran, which wields growing influence in the country, particularly through armed groups.
The Iraqi military said in a statement earlier on Friday that several rockets were launched into Iraq's K1 military base, which houses US and Iraqi forces, according to Reuters.
The K1 base, which lies 15km northwest of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, houses US military forces alongside Iraqi forces from the Federal Police and Counter-Terrorism Service, security sources said.
Security sources said they had found a launchpad for Katyusha rockets inside an abandoned vehicle near the base. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Still, a senior US military official said this month that attacks by Iranian-backed groups on bases hosting US forces in Iraq were gathering pace and becoming more sophisticated, pushing all sides closer to an uncontrollable escalation.
His warning came two days after four Katyusha rockets struck a base near Baghdad international airport, wounding five members of Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service, the latest in a spate of rocket strikes on bases hosting members of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group.
Washington has called on Baghdad to take steps to protect American interests in the country in the face of the attacks.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters earlier this month that he had expressed "concern about the optics in attacks on bases in Iraq where US troops and material might be," in a call with acting prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
Abdul Mahdi resigned last month under pressure from mass anti-government protests, but he remains in a position of power, carrying out his duties in a caretaker capacity.
Abdul Mahdi's office called on everyone "to spare no effort to prevent an escalation that will threaten all parties," warning that "unilateral decisions will trigger negative reactions that will make it more difficult to control the situation."