The attack on the Ain al-Asad base comes two days before Pope Francis’s historic visit to the country
A civilian contractor with the US-led coalition in Iraq died of a heart attack during a rocket attack on a western base on Wednesday, Iraqi and Western security sources said.
At least 10 rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Asad air base, which hosts Iraqi forces and troops from the US-led coalition helping fight Islamic State.
The sources could not confirm the contractor’s nationality and the US-led coalition did not respond to requests for comment, AFP reported.
Iran-backed Iraqi factions seeking de-escalation after US attack
The attack comes two days before Pope Francis’s historic visit to the country.
The Ain al-Assad base hosts Iraqi forces as well as troops from the US-led coalition helping Iraq fight remnants of Islamic State.
Earlier, coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed that 10 rockets hit the base at 7.20am (04:20 GMT), but did not provide details on any casualties.
Iraqi security forces said 10 “Grad-type rockets” hit the sprawling base on Wednesday morning, but said there were “no notable casualties”.
A Baghdad Operations Command official told Reuters that 13 rockets had been launched from a location about 8km from the base.
Western security sources told AFP that the rockets were Iranian-made Arash models, which are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than those seen in other attacks on Western targets in Iraq.
Deteriorating security situation
Dozens of rocket attacks and roadside bombs targeted Western security, military and diplomatic sites in Iraq in 2020, with Iraqi and Western military sources blaming hardline pro-Iran factions.
They came to a near-complete halt in October following a truce with the hardliners, but they have resumed at a quickening pace over the past three weeks.
Erbil attack a warning to Iraqi Kurds, not the US, say Shia commanders
The Pope will visit Iraq despite the deteriorating security situation in some parts of the country, which recently saw the first big suicide bombing in Baghdad for three years.
On 15 February a rocket attack on US-led forces killed a civilian contractor and injured a US service member in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil.
Last month, commanders of Iran-backed factions told Middle East Eye that the attack on Erbil was aimed at “disciplining the Kurdish authorities” and not meant as a message to the US.
However, the commanders insisted they were unaware of who exactly carried out the attack.