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British medic among three killed in rocket attack on military base in Iraq

Defence secretary condemns ‘cowardly and retrograde’ attack on coalition training camp near Baghdad

Chris Baynes
Thursday 12 March 2020 10:40 GMT
Coalition forces and Iraqi soldiers during a 2017 training session at Camp Taji, where a British medic and two Americans were killed by a rocket attack on 11 March, 2019
Coalition forces and Iraqi soldiers during a 2017 training session at Camp Taji, where a British medic and two Americans were killed by a rocket attack on 11 March, 2019 (AFP/Getty)

A British military medic has died alongside two Americans following a rocket attack on a joint airbase in Iraq, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Twelve other people were injured when 18 small rockets hit Camp Taji near Baghdad on Wednesday, according to US officials, who warned the death toll could increase.

The British victim was a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps, the MoD confirmed.

“The service person’s family have been informed and have requested a period of privacy before further details are released,” it said in a statement released early on Wednesday morning.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends at this sad time.”

Defence secretary Ben Wallace called the attack a “cowardly and retrograde act”.

He added: “The men and women of the UK armed forces are in Iraq to help that country establish stability and prosperity. The people that did this are not friends of Iraq.

“My thoughts are with the families of those whose loved ones have been killed or injured. We shall not forget their sacrifice and will ensure those who committed these acts face justice.”

Taji airbase is used as a training site by forces who are part of the US-led military coalition in Iraq.

One witness told of hearing screams of panic at the camp as sirens rang out.

Ali Al Dulaimy, a 28-year-old Iraqi journalist, filmed the attack from the town of Balad to the north of Taji.

Speaking to PA news agency, he said: “I heard screams and panic at the American forces inside the camp, and they were rushing to extinguish the fires that devoured the camp.

“There were soldiers shouting and sirens. It was in an agricultural area 10km near the camp.”

He added the rockets appeared to have been fired at “precise” targets.

“Approximately 18” Katyusha rockets struck the base, according to a statement issued by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. Iraqi security forces found a rocket-rigged truck a few miles away.

Prime minister Boris Johnson labelled the attack “deplorable”.

He said: “Our servicemen and women work tirelessly every day to uphold security and stability in the region – their presence makes us all safer.

“The foreign secretary has spoken to the US secretary of state and we will continue to liaise with our international partners to fully understand the details of this abhorrent attack.”

American officials said it was too early to assign blame for the rocket attack, but any indication that Iran-backed militia were responsible could spark a new round of confrontations between Washington and Tehran.

Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shia paramilitary group supported by Iran, carried out a rocket attack that killed a US contractor at a military base in Kirkuk in December, prompting American military strikes in response.

That led to protests at the US embassy in Baghdad which were followed on 2 January by a US airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful military officer, General Qasem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a leader of the Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

Kataib Hezbollah has been designated a “foreign terrorist organisation” by the US State Department since 2009.

About 400 British military personnel remained deployed in Iraq across three main bases – Camp Taji, Union III in Baghdad, and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Additional reporting by agencies

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