At least four rockets struck an airbase in Balad, north of Baghdad, on Saturday, the Iraqi military said in a statement. Other officials said one person was wounded at the base where a US defense company services combat aircraft.
The attack came days after more than a dozen rockets targeted coalition forces outside Erbil international airport, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. That attack killed one coalition contractor and wounded nine. Iraqi and Kurdish residents were also severely injured.
On Saturday, four security officials said the individual wounded at the airbase in Salahaddin province worked for the US company, and one said his nationality was South African. Other reports said the contractor was Iraqi. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with regulations.
They said the US defense company Sallyport has its headquarters within the airbase, and has 46 personnel contracted to provide base services to support Iraq’s F-16 program.
A little-known Shia militant group, Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Armed groups that some Iraqi officials say are backed by Iran have claimed such incidents in the past. Iran-aligned paramilitary groups demand that all foreign troops, including US forces, who number about 2,500 in Iraq, leave the country, calling their presence an occupation.
US-led coalition troops have gradually reduced their presence in Iraq over the last year. Saturday’s attack came after Nato announced it would scale up its mission in Iraq from 500 personnel to 4,000, in order to battle the remnants of the Islamic State group, according to comments from the secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, this week.
Nato’s training mission was launched in 2018 to help the conflict-ravaged country develop new academies and military schools for its armed forces. It was initially located in the capital, Baghdad, and in neighboring Jordan.