Drone attack on Erbil airport follows familiar pattern of Iran-backed militias

By Al-Mashareq and AFP


The model of an aeroplane of Iraqi Kurdish carrier Zagrosjet decorates the centre of a roundabout near Erbil's International airport in the capital of Iraq's Kurdish region on April 15. [Safin Hamed/AFP]

ERBIL -- Armed drones attacked Erbil international airport situated near the US consulate in the northern Iraq city, Kurdish security forces said Saturday (September 11), the latest in a series of similar incidents over the past year.

"There were no victims in the attack carried out by two armed drones," said a statement.

The airport, which also serves as the base for the US-led coalition forces fighting the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), suffered no damage, according to its director, Ahmed Hochiar.

An AFP correspondent saw black smoke rising up into the sky and heard two loud blasts and sirens around the US consulate.

Security forces sealed off access to the airport zone, said witnesses.

Attacks of this kind, normally targeting US troops or US interests in Iraq, have become common in recent months.

Although typically no one claims responsibility for them, Washington blames Iraq-based militia groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The use of weaponised drones is a more recent development that poses a fresh challenge to coalition forces and the US-installed C-RAM anti-missile defence systems.

Explosive-laden drones were launched against Erbil international airport in July too, although they did not cause casualties or damage that time, either.

However, the airport faced rocket attacks that resulted in minor injuries that month.

A few weeks earlier, three drones targeted the airport in Baghdad, where US troops are also deployed.

Both Iran and the United States have a military presence and allies in Iraq. There are 2,500 American troops stationed there.

Drones war

The latest attack came amid reports that the IRGC has set up a new training base in Iraq for members of its regional proxies, with drills focused on launching drone attacks.

Iraqi political analyst Hilal al-Obeidi said last week that Iran has set up a new training camp in Iraq's Karbala desert for its Iraqi and Syrian militias.

"The IRGC Quds Force, with help from the Lebanese Hizbullah, supervises the camp and provides recruits with courses on drone tactics," he said.

The establishment of the training camp "comes as part of Iran's relentless endeavour to produce a generation of experts with experience in launching explosives-laden drones", he said.

In response to the increasing threat from drones, the United States announced last week it will launch a new task force incorporating airborne, sailing and underwater drones following maritime attacks blamed on Iran.

US forces have also been holding ongoing joint military drills with their regional allies to increase the interoperability of their militaries and to counter the threat of small and medium-sized drones that have proliferated across the region.

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Our armed forces, as well as our internal forces which spare no efforts and aren’t less brave than our armed forces, are confronting the terrorist attacks very courageously. Our sons are defending our great Egypt very courageously and sincerely; they’re sacrificing every precious thing for our sake. We pray to Allah to grant them victory and to accept our martyrs! Allah is the best supporter and advocate!