US contractor dies after rockets hit airbase in Iraq housing US troops
At least 10 rockets were fired towards a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.led coalition troops on Wednesday March 3, with an American contractor dying from a resulting heart attack, the US and Iraqi military have announced.
The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but the US believe that Iran is responsible as this was the same base that was attacked last year by Iran in response to the US’ killing of General Soleimani.
It was an unusual attack because the base is rarely targeted and it reportedly had Patriot air defense installed last year.
President Joe Biden, speaking at the White House on Wednesday, told reporters that “we’re following that through right now.”
“Thank God, no one was killed by the rocket — one individual, a contractor, died of a heart attack. But we’re identifying who is responsible and will make judgments from that point,” Biden said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will respond to the attack “at a place and time of our choosing,” once it has determined who is responsible.
“The first thing we have to do is get to the bottom of it and find out to the best of our ability who in fact is responsible, and I think the President has been very clear that we will take appropriate action at a place and time of our choosing,” Blinken told the PBS NewsHour later on Wednesday.
British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey, has condemned the attack.
“Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” he tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilize Iraq.”
The attack comes two days before Pope Francis’ is scheduled to visit Iraq in a much anticipated trip that will include Baghdad, southern Iraq and in the northern city of Irbil.