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One killed as rockets hit Iraq navy base internet hosting US troops

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Photograph: AFP
  • A civilian contractor was killed after at the very least 10 rockets hit a navy base in Iraq, internet hosting US troops.
  • The assault got here after a number of weeks of escalating US-Iran rigidity on Iraqi soil.
  • It additionally comes simply two days earlier than the first-ever papal go to to the nation by Pope Francis.

BAGHDAD:  One particular person was killed after at the very least 10 rockets slammed right into a navy base in western Iraq internet hosting US-led coalition troops on Wednesday, safety sources mentioned.

The assault on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq´s western desert comes after a number of weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.

It additionally comes simply two days earlier than the first-ever papal go to to the nation by Pope Francis, who mentioned he would nonetheless make the go to in order to not “disappoint” the Iraqi individuals.

Ain al-Assad hosts each Iraqi forces and US-led coalition troops serving to battle the Islamic State group, in addition to the unmanned drones the coalition makes use of to surveil jihadist sleeper cells.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto confirmed that 10 rockets hit the bottom at 7:20 am (0420 GMT) whereas Iraqi safety forces mentioned they’d discovered the platform from which 10 “Grad-type rockets” hit the Ain al-Assad base.

Western safety sources advised AFP the rockets have been Iranian-made Arash fashions, that are 122mm artillery rockets and heavier than these seen in related assaults.

“One civilian contractor died of a coronary heart assault through the assault,” a high-level safety supply advised AFP, including that he couldn’t verify the contractor´s nationality.

The demise marks the third fatality in rocket assaults in current weeks after rockets focusing on US-led troops within the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil left two individuals useless.

Days later, extra rockets hit a US navy contracting firm working north of the capital and the US embassy in Baghdad, however solely accidents have been reported.

Learn extra: Pope Francis to make first-ever papal visit to Iraq on Friday

Boiling tensions

In response, the US carried out an airstrike on February 26 in opposition to Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary power stationed alongside the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Washington says it struck on the Syrian aspect of the border however Kataeb claims one in every of its fighters who was killed within the bombardment was defending “Iraqi territory”.

Analysts have pointed to each home and worldwide causes for the sudden rise in tensions.

Hardline Iraqi teams have an curiosity in ramping up the strain on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi following his pledges to rein in rogue militias.

They could additionally carry a message from Tehran to Washington, which below US President Joe Biden is providing to revive the Iran nuclear deal deserted by his predecessor Donald Trump in 2018.

Iran is demanding the US raise sanctions instantly, whereas the US needs Iran to maneuver first by returning to earlier nuclear commitments.

Tensions between the 2 rivals peaked in January 2020, following a US drone strike on Baghdad airport that killed Iranian common Qasem Soleimani and prime Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

In response, Iran launched ballistic missiles on Ain al-Assad and Arbil, wounding dozens.

Iraq ‘ready for us’

Over the following 10 months, dozens of rockets and roadside bombs focused Western safety, navy and diplomatic websites throughout Iraq — a few of them lethal.

Iraqi and Western officers have blamed hardline pro-Iran factions, a few of which have established “entrance teams” to keep away from being straight accused of violence.

Final 12 months´s assaults got here to a near-complete halt in October following a truce with the hardliners, however they’ve resumed at a quickening tempo over the previous three weeks.

Regardless of the current escalation, Pope Francis is set to go forward on Friday with the first-ever papal go to to the nation.

“The day after tomorrow, God keen, I’ll go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a very long time I’ve needed to satisfy these individuals who have suffered a lot,” the 84-year-old Francis mentioned in his Wednesday tackle.

He added: “The Iraqi individuals are ready for us, they have been ready for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One can’t disappoint individuals for the second time. Allow us to pray that this journey will likely be profitable.”

Whereas he’s not scheduled to go to western Iraq, Francis will spend time in Baghdad and Arbil, each hit by rocket assaults final month.

Iraq is concurrently gripped by a second wave of the coronavirus, which is seeing greater than 4,500 new circumstances a day within the nation of 40 million.

To stem the unfold and management the crowds through the Pope´s go to, Iraq is ready to increase its weekend lockdowns to incorporate the whole thing of the papal go to from March 5-8.

Learn extra: Iraq, US step back from planned evacuation of contractors from Iraqi base





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