Rockets target Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Written by on February 15, 2021

A rocket attack in Iraq on Monday evening appeared to target both busy streets and a base where US soldiers are located near the Erbil International Airport. Over the last two years dozens of rocket attacks have targeted areas where US soldiers were located on facilities on bases in Iraq. These have been blamed on Kataib Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militia groups. However there are other tensions in the autonomous Kurdistan region.

Disputed reports said that the rocket fire may have come from Nineveh plains, which is controlled by pro-Iranian militias who serve under the command of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which are part of the government’s security forces. Other sources said the rockets came from near Kirkuk region, another area where pro-Iranian groups have had a footprint since pushing Kurdish peshmerga out in October 2017.  

At around 9:30 in the evening locals reported several large explosions. Smoke was seen. Ambulances and sirens were heard. The people that spoke to the ‘Post’ said that they heard all this from an area called Ainkawa which is near the airport. US forces are known to use an area of Erbil International Airport. A past attack with Grad rockets on September 30, 2020 came near to this area. The attack on February 15, 2021 appears more extensive in the pattern of fire. This could point to rockets aimed from a different location. The distance from areas near Kirkuk, such as Altun Kopru is around 47km to Erbil. There have been tensions in this area between Peshmerga and the PMF, as well as ISIS cells that hold out in areas near Mount Qara Chokh.  

There are many tensions in this region. In recent days Turkey launched an attack on Kurdistan Workers Party fighters in the mountains. There are also rumors that PMF brigades have moved to Sinjar to stop a rumored Turkish invasion. The pro-Iranian PMF forces are also against the US presence in Iraq. IN recent months various pro-Iranian militia groups have targeted convoys that supply US forces, leading to change in logistics supply.  

Video of the rockets striking civilian areas would point more likely to ISIS or pro-Iranian militias. Some suggested the attacks were. Five mortar rounds and others pointed to a 122mm rocket. Fazel Hawramy, a reporter said, according to a Rudaw report, that one American service member was wounded. The US-led Coalition did not immediately respond to a query. Rockets were fired from Hamdaniyeh near Mosul, he noted. That is some 60km away to the West. Experts looked at blast radius and impact for the rockets. One rocket fell in an area called Naz City and another fell some 2km south of the airport. Peshmerga members, who are the security forces of the autonomous region, were quoted saying “terrorists” carried out the attacks. Security forces of the Kurdistan government were investigating. Many Kurds are tired of their peaceful and stable area being used by proxy groups or being abused by larger countries and groups with agendas. The region already saw Kirkuk and Sinjar taken from it in October 2017 after an independence referendum. It has suffered economic costs due to Baghdad not transferring its share of the budget.  

The interior ministry of the Kurdistan region says there are injuries according to Lawk Ghafuri, a foreign media relations official. 

By 11:30 P.M. reports in Iraq said fighter jets and helicopters could be heard, likely from the US-led Coalition. Also several injured were reported, including a Syrian. One civilian may have been killed.

The Kurdistan region has vowed to find those responsible.

A statement from the Ministry of Interior of the Kurdistan Regional Government said that “at 9:30 tonight, several rockets were fired at and around the city of Erbil and landed in several places.  As a result, several people were injured, according to preliminary information. Following the incident, a detailed investigation has been launched by security agencies.”

“We urge the beloved citizens of Erbil to stay away from these places & stay in their houses until we publish more information later.”  

According to one witness of the rockets, one fell near Gulan street in Erbil. The sound was very loud. A source in Ainkawa said she heard three loud explosions.

According to a local journalist and expert, rockets fell not only near Naz city, an area in Erbil, but out by the sheep market in Alwa on the way to Mosul and in an area in the city called Waziran near a 40 meter road called Gulan street.

The rockets reportedly fell 300 meters from each other. Hitting the north and south sides of the same large boulevard.  

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