Erbil Airbase attacked with drone using TNT; Turkish soldier killed in rocket strikes near Bashiqa

'Erbil is strong and brave'
Image circulating on social media of the the aftermath of the drone attack on Erbil Airbase. (NRT Digital Media/Social Media)

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SULAIMANI — Erbil Airbase and a Turkish military facility near Bashiqa in Nineveh governorate were hit in closely-timed attacks on Wednesday night (April 14).

The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the attack on the airbase "was conducted with a TNT drone." There were no casualties, but a building suffered some damage.

Just before 10:00 p.m., residents across the northern parts of the city reported hearing a large explosion and seeing smoke rising from the base, which is adjacent to Erbil International Airport.

The sprawling facility hosts troops from a number of countries belonging to the International Coalition fighting Islamic State (ISIS).

It was not immediately clear where the drone originated. No group has taken responsibility so far.

At around the same time, a number of rockets were fired at a Turkish military base in the foothills of Maqluba Mountain in Zelkani sub-district in Duhok governorate's Shekhan district. The area is near Bashiqa.

The Turkish Ministry of Defense said in a tweet that three rockets fell on the base, killing one soldier.

Godad village chief Muhammad Hamdun told NRT that a teenage girl living near the base was wounded and taken to a hospital for treatment. He said that more than 5 rockets were fired during the attack.

In a series of tweets, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani condemned both attacks “in the strongest terms” along with “the terror group behind them.”

“These recent attacks are a blatant attempt to undermine our security at home and our cooperation with the global coalition…Any armed groups which are not operating within the official Iraqi security forces must be withdrawn from the Kurdistan Region border,” he added.

“Over the coming days, I will hold talks with Iraqi and international partners on practical ways to make this happen.”

Barzani also said that he had already spoken with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Speaker of the Council of Representatives Mohammed al-Halbusi, and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu about the attacks.

He also spoke with Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar, issuing a statement saying that "both sides...will be closely in touch."

Others in the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and around the world also issued statements condemning the attacks.

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani’s office said in a statement that there was “no justifications for these attacks” and that the Region would “to confront the groups that are behind such attacks” in cooperation with Iraq’s federal government and its international partners.

Yahia Rasool, spokesperson for Iraq’s commander-in-chief, issued a statement saying that federal authorities had launched an investigation into the attacks.

Seeking a contrast with the efforts by the Iraqi Security Forces to combat terrorism, Rasool said that “some are trying to create chaos and destabilize security and stability, which is unacceptable and will be confronted with the force of law and the solidarity of the Iraqi people.”

US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Twitter that the US was "Outraged by reports of attacks in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region."

"The Iraqi people have suffered for far too long from this kind of violence and violation of their sovereignty," he added.


- Previous Attacks -

This is the third attack targeting the base in Erbil since January 2020, including rocket attacks in September and in February, when two people were killed and eight others were wounded.

The September and February strikes were blamed militias within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), while Iran launched the January 2020 missile strike in retaliation for the US' assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

In a tweet shortly after Wednesday's attack, former Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) member Hoshyar Zebari blamed the PMF for the attack, calling the incident a "a clear [and] dangerous escalation."

Tensions have also been escalating between Turkey and the PMF in northwestern Iraq in recent weeks over the future of Sinjar district.

In response to the attack on Erbil, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Rewaz Fayaq called it "a cowardly attempt to destroy the security of the capital of the Kurdistan Region."

"Erbil is strong and brave," she added. 

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated on April 15 at 8:52 a.m. EBL