A civilian contractor was killed and a US service member was injured along with five other contractors when rocket fire landed on coalition forces near Erbil International Airport in Iraq, said Col. Wayne Marotto, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve. CNN's Oren Liebermann reports.
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A civilian contractor was killed and a US service member was injured along with five other contractors when rocket fire landed on coalition forces near Erbil International Airport in Iraq, said Col. Wayne Marotto, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve. CNN's Oren Liebermann reports.
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(CNN) —  

A civilian contractor was killed and a US service member was injured along with eight other contractors when rocket fire landed on coalition forces near Erbil International Airport in Iraq, said Col. Wayne Marotto, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Initial reports that Indirect Fire landed on Coalition Forces in Erbil tonight.” Marotto wrote on Twitter Monday.

On Tuesday, Marotto said the civilian contractor who was killed was not American.

According to initial reports, four of the injured contractors are American citizens, a defense official told CNN.

Earlier a statement from the Interior Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government said several rockets had been launched toward the city.

Video from the scene showed at least one of the rockets landed on a busy urban street, sending a cloud of sparks and smoke into the air. Marotto said Tuesday 14 rockets were launched.

The regional government called for locals to stay home as authorities investigated the incident. The US is currently gathering intelligence to try to determine where the rockets were launched from, the defense official said.

Erbil International Airport reopened at noon on Tuesday, and all flights and movements resumed normally, according to a statement from the airport.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Monday evening that the US is “outraged” by the attack.

“We express our condolences to the loved ones of the civilian contractor killed in this attack, and to the innocent Iraqi people and their families who are suffering these ruthless acts of violence,” he said.

Blinken spoke with Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, to discuss the attack and pledge support “for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible.”

An Iranian-backed Shia militant group called “The Guardians of the Blood Brigade” claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement but did not provide evidence of its role in the incident. Iraqi security sources in Baghdad told CNN said they are investigating the claim.

“The American occupation will not be safe from our strikes in any inch of the homeland, and even in Kurdistan, where we promise we will carry out other qualitative operations,” the group’s statement said.

The group has claimed responsibility for other small attacks targeting US troops in areas near Baghdad and northern Iraq in August.

Security forces gather following a rocket attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on February 15, 2021.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images
Security forces gather following a rocket attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on February 15, 2021.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh denied Iran was involved in the attack. “These rumors are strongly rejected, the dubious attempt to attribute it to Iran is also strongly condemned,” he said, according to Iran’s state official news agency Mehr.

Khatibzadeh said, “Iran considers the stability and security of Iraq a key issue for the region and its neighbors and rejects any action that disturbs the peace and order in this country,” Mehr reported.

Erbil, which is located in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and hosts US troops, is expected to be one of several cities Pope Francis visits in early March in a historic trip to Iraq.

The last rocket attack on US troops in Erbil was in September last year, when three rockets struck the US base in the area, while three more landed nearby. No US personnel were injured in that attack, and there were no reports of damage. Suspicion immediately fell on Iranian-backed militias, since the rockets were fired from an area under the control of a predominantly Shia paramilitary force, Hashad al Shabbi, according to the to the Interior Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

That attack came one day after the Trump administration had told Iraqi leaders that it would close the US embassy in Baghdad if Iranian-backed militias kept targeting US personnel in the country. The threat followed the decision to withdraw thousands of US troops from Iraq in September, bringing the total number from 5,200 troops to approximately 3,000. The number was further reduced to 2,500 shortly before President Joe Biden took office. The acting secretary of defense at the time, Christopher Miller, had said the drawdown was in response to the “increased capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.”

This story has been updated with additi