A rocket attack killed a US civilian contractor on an Iraqi military base in oil-city Kirkuk on Friday evening, the US-led anti-Isis coalition has said, adding that several American and Iraqi service personnel were wounded.
Iraq’s official security media organisation said a number of rockets had fallen inside the K1 military base in Iraq’s long-restive north-east region.
Iraqi security forces are investigating the attack, the coalition said in a statement. About 5,000 US personnel are stationed in the country to help the armed forces combat the remnants of Isis, unknown numbers of whom are hiding out in rough terrain in the country’s north.
The attack comes amid the most significant unrest since Isis lost its last foothold in Iraq two years ago. Security forces are deployed in large numbers in the country’s south, where mass demonstrations have been going on since early October.
Isis may exploit the instability to mount assaults, according to Yehia Rasool, Iraq’s defence ministry spokesperson. “Definitely when there is a disturbance in the security situation and the forces are busy securing the protesters . . . the Isis gangs will use that,” he told the FT recently.
The Pentagon has previously said that Isis was unlikely to regain the strength it had when it controlled a swath of Iraq and Syria about the size of Britain, but the Sunni jihadis still pose a threat in Iraq and abroad.
Underscoring Iraq’s complex security challenges, Trump administration officials have warned that Iran-backed Shia militias are targeting US personnel and facilities in Iraq. Washington accuses Iran of meddling in the region and has reimposed sweeping sanctions on its economy, while Tehran alleges the US has imperialist ambitions.
As tension rose between the US and Iran in the Gulf region in spring and summer this year, a string of rockets landed in or near facilities housing US government employees and service members — but no Americans were hurt.
Iran has trained, armed and funded many Iraqi Shia paramilitary groups. Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, earlier this month accused “Iranian proxies” of two attacks on Iraqi military bases near Baghdad airport which wounded five Iraqi soldiers, two of them critically. He threatened Iran’s leaders with a “decisive US response” if they or their proxies “harm Americans, our allies, or our interests”.