A Pentagon contractor has been killed and several US service members have been injured following a rocket attack on a coalition military base in Iraq.
Intelligence officials say 11 to 14 rockets were launched on the K1 military base, located near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, on Friday afternoon.
The United States is now looking into whether an Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia group by the name of Kataib Hezbollah is responsible for the attack.
Friday’s fatal incident is ‘the eleventh rocket attack targeting an outpost housing American forces in the last two months,’ according to Military Times.
While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the latest attack, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Iranian-backed forces for previous rocket launches on bases in Iraq.
In a statement following a separate incident earlier this month, Pompeo warned Iran that any attacks by Tehran or their proxies that harmed Americans or their allies would be ‘answered with a decisive US response.’
‘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,’ the statement read. ‘Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region.’
Last month, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper similarly told fellow lawmakers in Washington that ‘Iran should not mistake the United States’ restraint for an unwillingness to respond with decisive military force should our forces or interests be attacked’.
Tensions between the US and Iran have been building since President Trump pulled his country out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy. Iran has now restarted its nuclear program.
This past summer, Washington blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers and a major strike on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. However, Iran has denied being behind such incidents.
On Friday, one US official told CNN that they see similarities between Friday’s rocket attack and previous rocket attacks which have been linked to Kataib Hezbollah.
Following a separate rocket attack on December 11, Pompeo stated: ‘Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region.’
Earlier this month, a senior US military official revealed that attacks by Iranian-backed groups on bases hosting US forces in Iraq were gathering pace and becoming more sophisticated.
The US has sent nearly 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East within the past six months in response to escalating tensions with Iran.
President Trump has not yet responded to Friday’s attack, and Iraqi Security Forces are leading the response and investigation.
The Pentagon contractor who was killed has not yet been publicly named. All injured US troops are expected to make a full recovery.
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Source: Daily Mail