Rocket attack at Iraqi airbase wounds US contractor

Baghdad, Iraq: Six rockets were fired Monday evening at Iraq's Balad air base north of Baghdad, lightly injuring a foreign contractor working for a US company, according to an Iraqi security official.

Three rockets initially fell in an area where US company Sallyport is based, the security source said, requesting anonymity. Sallyport is the contractor that manages F-16 aircraft purchased by Iraq from the US.

According to this source, a foreign employee of Sallyport was lightly injured.

Three more rockets were launched about 15 minutes later, according to the source, and they landed near the base but did not strike it.

Commander Jessica McNulty, a Pentagon spokesperson, confirmed that no US or coalition troops were stationed at Balad, but that US citizen contractors operated there.

McNulty said, citing preliminary reports, that there were no US casualties or injury.

It is the second attack on US interests in less than 24 hours, following two rocket attacks on a US-led coalition airbase at Baghdad International Airport on Sunday. There were no casualties in Sunday's assault.

No one claimed responsibility for either assault right away.

Since President Joe Biden took office in January, approximately 30 rocket or bomb attacks have targeted American interests in Iraq, including soldiers, the embassy, and Iraqi supply convoys to foreign powers.

The attacks killed two foreign contractors, one Iraqi contractor, and eight Iraqi civilians.

Washington regularly blames such attacks on its troops and diplomats on Iran-linked Iraqi groups.

Two rockets landed near Balad in early April, causing no injuries or property damage.

According to officials, an explosives-laden drone slammed into Iraq's Arbil airport last month, marking the first recorded use of such a weapon against a base used by US-led coalition troops in the region.

During the presidency of Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, dozens of other attacks were carried out in Iraq beginning in the autumn of 2019.

The operations are often claimed by unidentified groups, which experts say are fronts for Iran-backed organizations that have long been present in Iraq.

The strikes come at a critical juncture in Tehran's negotiations with world powers to re-enter the US into a 2015 nuclear agreement.

After Trump's withdrawal in 2018, the deal, which limits Iran's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, has been on life support.

Pro-Iran Iraqi groups have vowed to ramp up attacks to force out the "occupying" US forces in recent months, sometimes against Tehran's wishes, according to some experts.

Baghdad reportedly hosted a secret meeting of senior officials from Tehran and US ally Saudi Arabia last month.


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