Rocket hits US base near Erbil airport in northern Iraq

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Multiple rockets were fired in the direction of Erbil International airport in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Monday night.

The Ministry of Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government said that a number of rockets were launched towards its capital at 9.30pm, “where they landed on several sites, and according to preliminary information, there are a number of wounded”.

The incident is being investigated it said.

“We call upon our dear citizens to stay away from the targeted places and stay home, so that we can provide you with more information later,” the ministry said.

Three rockets targeted the airport, one of which hit a military complex where US-led coalition troops are based, two security sources told AFP.

The two others hit residential areas near the airport, one of the sources confirmed, with no immediate information on casualties.

The Associated Press referenced Iraqi security officials saying three rockets hit outside Erbil airport, near US troops, wounding at least 2 civilians.

They said the areas between the civilian airport and the nearby base hosting US troops were hit.

Quoting two security sources, website Rudaw said the two people injured have been taken to hospital.

A Reuters reporter heard several blasts and saw a fire blazing for a few minutes in the vicinity of the airport. One security official said the total number of rockets launched was five.

Sky News Arabia quoted a Kurdish security source saying that the Popular Mobilisation Units paramilitary grouping was behind the attack, which was launched from the south of Erbil.

The Popular Mobilisation Units is comprised largely of Shiite militias mobilised in 2014 to fight ISIS and trained and armed by Iran.

Although the PMU are officially a part of the state security forces, they have remained outside of the military chain of command and are seen as acting at Iran’s behest.

Iraq has found itself caught in the middle of increasing tensions between Iran and the US since Washington pulled out the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed stringent sanctions on Tehran to curtail its interference in the region.

Western military and diplomatic sites have been targeted by dozens of rockets and roadside bomb attacks since the autumn of 2019, but most of the violence has taken place in Baghdad. The attack on Monday represents the first time US military or diplomatic installations have been targeted in Iraq in nearly two months.

Both American and Iraqi officials have blamed hardline elements of the PMU, including the pro-Iran faction Kataeb Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, for such attacks.

These groups are vehemently opposed to the US-led coalition, which has been based in Iraq since 2014 to help local forces fight back ISIS.

With ISIS largely defeated, the coalition has drawn down to under 3,500 forces in total, 2,500 of which are US troops.

Most of those units are concentrated at the military complex at the Erbil airport.

But most rocket attacks had concentrated on the coalition and US diplomatic personnel based in Baghdad.

In October, the US threatened to close its embassy there if the rocket attacks did not stop, so hardline groups agreed to an indefinite truce.

There have been several violations since then, the most recent of which, prior to Monday night, was a volley of rockets targeting the US embassy on December 20.

On September 30, six rockets hit near Erbil airport. Kurdish authorities said they had been launched from a pickup truck in the nearby town of Bartella in Ninevah province, which falls under federal government control.

the national news

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