Pentagon: US Contractor Dies in Rocket Attack at Iraq Base

WASHINGTON—A U.S. contractor died Wednesday when at least 10 rockets slammed into an air base housing U.S. and other coalition troops in western Iraq, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the contractor “suffered a cardiac episode while sheltering” and died shortly afterward. He said there were no service members injured and all are accounted for. British and Danish troops also are among those stationed at the base.

The rocket attack was the first since the United States struck Iran-aligned militia targets along the Iraq-Syria border last week, killing one militiaman.

No one claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack.

The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province early in the morning, U.S.-led coalition spokesperson Col. Wayne Marotto said. Kirby said the rockets were fired from east of the base, and that counter-rocket defensive systems were used to defend forces at the base.

Kirby said the United States can’t attribute responsibility for the attack yet, and that the extent of the damage was still being assessed.

The Iraqi military released a statement saying that Wednesday’s attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets—a truck. Video of the site shows a burning truck in a desert area.

British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey condemned the attack, saying it undermined the ongoing fight against the ISIS terrorist group. “Coalition forces are in Iraq to fight Daesh at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” he tweeted, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “These terrorist attacks undermine the fight against Daesh and destabilize Iraq.”

Denmark said coalition forces at the base were helping to bring stability and security to the country.

“Despicable attacks against Ain al-Asad base in #Iraq are completely unacceptable,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted. The Danish armed forces said two Danes who were at the base at the time of the attack are unharmed.

Last week’s U.S. strike along the border was in response to a spate of rocket attacks that targeted the American presence, including one that killed a coalition contractor from the Philippines outside the Irbil airport.

After that attack, the Pentagon said the strike was a “proportionate military response.”

Marotto, the coalition spokesperson, said the Iraqi security forces were leading an investigation into the attack.

U.S. troops in Iraq significantly decreased their presence in the country last year and withdrew from several Iraqi bases to consolidate chiefly in Ain al-Asad, Baghdad and Irbil.