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US was wrong about attack that triggered war threat with Iran, Iraqi intelligence says

IRAQI military and intelligence officials have claimed that the United States was wrong about the attack on an airbase that prompted them to assassinate Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

On December 27, a rocket attack on Iraqi military base K-1 killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several US military and Iraqi personnel.

The US blamed an Iran-backed Iraqi militia, but doubts have been raised about who fired the rockets that kicked off the spiral of events posing the threat of war, the New York Times revealed today.

Iraqi officials said that they believe it was unlikely that the Khataib Hezbollah militia carried out the attack.

They based their claim on circumstantial evidence and long experience of the area where the attack took place.

The rockets were launched from a Sunni Muslim part of Kirkuk province which is notorious for attacks by Isis, making this hostile territory for a Shiite militia such as Khataib Hezbollah.

While Khataib Hezbollah has not had a presence in the province since 2014, Isis had carried out three attacks close to the base in the 10 days before the attack on K-1.

Iraqi intelligence officials sent reports to the US in November and December warning that Isis intended to target K-1.

“All the indications are that it was [Isis],” said General Ahmed Adnan, the Iraqi chief of intelligence at K-1.

He said he had told the US about the three incidents in the days just before.

“We know [Isis’] movements,” he added. “We as Iraqi forces cannot even come to this area unless we have a large force because it is not secure.

“How could it be that someone who doesn’t know the area could come here and find that firing position and launch an attack?”

Khataib Hezbollah has denied responsibility for the attack.

American officials insist they have solid evidence that the group carried out the attack, though they have not made it public.

The US retaliated to the initial rocket by bombing the group’s bases, which led to Iraqis storming the American Embassy. The US then killed Gen Soliemani in a drone attack.

Iran responded by firing missiles at US forces and as tensions escalated mistakenly shot down a passenger jet, killing 176 people.

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