BAGHDAD (AFP) — A rocket attack north of Baghdad killed two Americans and a British soldier Wednesday, and brought furious denunciations from top Iraqi politicians and the United Nations.
Eighteen rockets slammed into the Taji air base late Wednesday, killing a British soldier, a U.S. soldier and an U.S. contractor in the deadliest attack in years on U.S. forces in Iraq.
There was no claim of responsibility but Washington has accused Iran-backed factions of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary alliance of carrying out similar attacks.
Within hours, air raids killed 26 Iran-aligned Iraqi fighters in neighboring Syria, prompting fears that tensions between Washington and Tehran would flare up again.
Iraq’s military command said the attack was “a serious security challenge” and pledged to open an investigation.
President Barham Saleh and parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbussi condemned a “terrorist attack” which targeted “Iraq and its security.”
The U.N. mission in Iraq called for “maximum restraint on all sides.”
“These ongoing attacks are a clear and substantial threat to the country, and the risk of rogue action by armed groups remains a constant concern,” it said in a statement.
“The last thing Iraq needs is to serve as an arena for vendettas and external battles.”
The attack was the 22nd since October on U.S. interests in Iraq. U.S. diplomatic offices have come under attack as well as the bases where 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq are based.
Previous attacks killed an Iraqi soldier and a U.S. contractor, leading to a major increase in tensions between Washington and Tehran.
Washington responded to the American contractor’s death with airstrikes that killed more than two dozen Iran-backed Iraqi fighters.
Days later, a U.S. drone killed senior Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and Hashed deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad airport, prompting retaliatory Iranian air strikes against coalition troops in Iraq.
Hashed factions have repeatedly pledged to avenge Muhandis’s death.
© Agence France-Presse