U.S. vows consequences for group behind Iraq rocket attack

Feb. 17 (UPI) — The Biden administration said Wednesday that there will be consequences for the group behind Monday’s rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed a contractor and injured several others.

U.S. military authorities said at least 14 107 mm rockets on Monday night were launched at the Erbil airport with three hitting the U.S. base on the complex, killing one non-American contractor and eight other contractors. Five Americans were injured in the attack, including a U.S. service member.

Awliya al-Dam, or the Guardians of the Blood, has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Jen Psaki, the White House’s press secretary, said Tuesday the Biden administration wasn’t going to retaliate based on the word of the little-known militant group and would wait for the investigation to be completed.

She said that “diplomacy is a priority with this administration.”

On Wednesday, Ned Price, the Department of State spokesman, told reporters during a press conference the investigation into the attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in the Kurdistan Region city of Erbil was ongoing but that there would be a response once culpability is determined.

“It’s fair to say that there will be consequences for any group responsible for this attack,” he said. “As I spoke to it yesterday, our Kurdish partners, our Iraqi partners, together they are working on this investigation to determine who precisely was responsible. Any response we take will be in full coordination with the government of Iraq and with our coalition partners.”

Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be speaking Thursday with the foreign ministers of the E3 — Britain, France and Germany — where he expects the attack to be discussed.

Those nations, along with Italy, issued a statement on Tuesday in condemnation of the attack.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, told reporters Wednesday during an online press conference following the first day of a two-day summit between NATO defense ministers that the attack makes their training mission in the region more important.

“I expect ministers tomorrow to agree to expand the training mission so we can provide more training, more capacity-building across the country,” he said.

Stoltenberg explained that when he spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi after the attack, al-Kadhimi expressed support for the missions and conveyed the Iraqi government’s wish for NATO’s presence in the country to grow.

“We do this to support the Iraqi people but we do it also because it is in our interest to fight terrorism,” he said. “And we strongly believe that in the long run, the best weapon we have against terrorism is to train local forces and build local capacity.”

The United States has 2,500 troops in the Middle Eastern country.

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