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U.S., European allies condemn deadly Iraq attack

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other Western European allies condemned the missile attack on a U.S.-led military base in northern Iraq that left one civilian contractor dead and nine others injured. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other Western European allies condemned the missile attack on a U.S.-led military base in northern Iraq that left one civilian contractor dead and nine others injured. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The United States with Western European allies on Tuesday condemned Monday night's rocket attack on a U.S.-led military base in northern Iraq that left one civilian contractor dead and nine others injured.

"We the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America condemn in the strongest terms the February 15 rocket attack in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region," the diplomats said in a joint statement.

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Issued by the U.S. State Department, the statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken along with the other nations' top diplomats said they support the government of Iraq's investigation into the attack "with a view to holding accountable those responsible."

"We are united in our view that attacks on U.S. and coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated," they said.

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On Monday night, coalition forces in Erbil, which resides in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, were attacked by a barrage of rockets, killing a non-U.S. civilian contractor and injuring eight other contractors and a U.S. service member. In total, five Americas were injured.

Col. Wayne Marotto, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said about 14 107 mm rockets were launched at the base near Erbil airport Monday at 9:30 p.m. with three hitting their target.

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The Kurdistan Regional Government said it was leading the investigation into the attack and had urged residents of Erbil city to remain in their homes until further notice.

The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs of the KRG warned that an attack on U.S.-led forces is an attack on the Peshmerga forces.

"We will defeat the terrorists and we will not allow the lives of our people to be endangered in any way," the ministry said in a statement reported by the Bas New Agency.

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Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the special representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, condemned the attack and told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that such attempts to inflame tensions in the already fraught Middle Eastern country "pose grave threats to Iraq's stability."

"Close collaboration between Baghdad and Erbil, to bring the culprits to justice, is now of the greatest importance," she said.

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It was unclear who was behind the attack but Awliya al Dam, or the Guardian of the Blood, has claimed responsibility, The New York Times reported.

The little-known group, which also claimed responsibility for two bombings in August, said the attack Monday was in retaliation for the deaths of "the martyred leaders."

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters Tuesday during a press briefing in Washington, D.C., that they are "outraged" by the attack.

In response to a question concerning possible links between Iran and Awliya al Dam, Psaki said the White House has yet to determine who was behind it.

"The president of the United States and the administration reserves the right to respond in the time and the manner of our choosing, but we'll wait for the attribution to be concluded first before we take any additional steps," she said.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, also told reporters Tuesday that they have seen Awliya al Dam's statement but would refrain from finger-pointing for the time being.

"We don't want to base our conclusions solely and exclusively on claims of a particular group," he said.

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Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, condemned the allegation on Tuesday, calling it "suspicious rumors," Iran's Tasnim News Agency reported.

"Iran regards stability and security of Iraq as a key issue for the region and neighbors, and rejects any measure disrupting order and calm in that country," Kjatibzadeh said in a statement.

The United States currently has 2,500 service members in Iraq following reductions that occurred under the former Trump administration.

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