European foreign ministers condemn Erbil rocket attack and endorse Iraq-led investigation

Joint statement says attacks on coalition personnel will not be tolerated

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European foreign ministers and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a joint statement condemning a deadly rocket attack in Iraqi Kurdistan.

One civilian contractor was killed and at least nine people injured after an airbase near Erbil was struck by more than a dozen Iran-made rockets on Monday.

A little-known Shiite militant group called Saraya Awliya Al Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Foreign ministers from France, Germany, Italy, the US and the UK condemned the attacks and backed an investigation led by Iraq into the incident.

People stand next to a roof damaged after a rocket attack on U.S.-led forces in and near Erbil International Airport last night, in Erbil, Iraq February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

“We offer our condolences to the victims, their families and the Iraqi people,” their statement said.

“Together, our governments will 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 US and coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated.”

The rockets hit areas between the international airport in Erbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous, Kurdish-run region and a nearby base housing American troops.

US Army Col Wayne Marotto said on Tuesday that a civilian contractor with the coalition who was not a US citizen was killed. A US military serviceman and eight civilian contractors were wounded in the assault, he said.

An unspecified number of Iraqi and Kurdish civilians were wounded as rockets hit residential areas near the airport.

UN special representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert also condemned the assault and called for national unity. "Such heinous, reckless acts pose grave threats to stability. Iraq must be shielded from (external) rivalries," she said on Twitter.

The coalition confirmed that 14 rockets were fired with three landing at the airbase.

It was the first attack since September to target Erbil’s airport. Separately, coalition forces based close to Baghdad airport have been a frequent target for rocket attacks, which the US has blamed on Iran-backed Shiite militia groups.