Mortars land near Erbil airport, Iraqi Kurdish security sources say

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Rockets struck outside Irbil international airport near where US forces are based in northern Iraq on Monday, wounding at least two civilians and sparking fears of new hostilities, Iraqi security officials said.

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Three rockets hit areas between the civilian airport in the Kurdish-run region and the nearby base hosting US troops, the three security officials said. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

At least two civilians were wounded and material damage was caused to cars and other property, the security officials said, without providing more details. The rockets were launched from an area south of Irbil near the border with Kirkuk province and fell on some residential areas close to the airport.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Attacks targeting Irbil airport are rare. Monday’s attack was the first to strike the area in five months.

On Sept. 30, when six rockets hit near the 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.

Hoshiyar Zebari, a politburo member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said security officials were investigating the source of the attack. “There will be consequences against the culprits. This aggression will not stand,” he tweeted.

Rocket attacks have frequently target the US presence in Baghdad, including the US Embassy, as well as convoys ferrying materials for the US-led coalition.

The frequency of attacks diminished late last year ahead of US President Joe Biden’s inauguration. The US under the previous Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out the attacks. Tensions soared after a Washington-directed drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year.

US forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group.

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