It is too early to say whether Iran directed the attack, the person said, but previous attacks by militia groups on US and coalition forces in Iraq have been linked to Tehran.
A total of five Americans were injured in the attack: four civilian contractors and a service member, according to two defense officials. In addition, one non-US contractor was killed and two non-US contractors were injured.
At least two civilians were also injured and property damage was caused to cars and other property, security officials said without giving further details. A statement from Kurdistan’s Interior Ministry said “several people” were injured in a preliminary investigation. The rockets were launched from an area south of Irbil near the border with Kirkuk province and landed on some residential areas close to the airport.
Officials spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with the rules.
Iraqi President Barham Saleh condemned the attack, saying in a statement released online that it marked a “dangerous escalation.”
Kurdish authorities warn Irbil residents to stay away from targeted areas and remain in their homes, according to a Interior Ministry statement.
Attacks targeting Irbil airport are rare. Monday’s attack was the first to hit the area in five months.
On September 30, when six rockets hit near the airport. Kurdish authorities said they had been launched from a pickup truck in the nearby town of Bartella in Ninevah province, which falls under federal government control. Kurdish authorities had accused Shiite militia groups.
Hoshiyar Zebari, a politburo member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said security officials were investigating the source of the attack. “There will be consequences for the sinners. This aggression will not stand, ”he tweeted.
Rocket attacks have often targeted the US presence in Baghdad, including the US Embassy, as well as convoys ferrying materials to the US-led coalition.
The frequency of attacks dropped at the end of last year prior to Biden’s inauguration. The United States under the former Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out the attacks. Tensions rose after a drone strike in Washington that killed senior Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandi last year.
Trump had said the death of a U.S. entrepreneur would be a red line and provoke U.S. escalation in Iraq. The killing of a U.S. civilian entrepreneur in December 2019 in a rocket attack in Kirkuk triggered a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that brought the country to the brink of a proxy war.
U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 staff and are no longer participating in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.
Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.
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