No injuries as rockets hit near Baghdad airport, damage two planes

At least six Katyusha rockets struck near the civilian side of Baghdad’s international airport and an adjacent military base that hosts a small number of U.S. and other coalition advisors on Friday, damaging two planes on the runway. There were no casualties, Iraqi officials said.

A counter rocket, artillery and mortar intercept system at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Facility, a small area in the airport, was activated, but it is unclear at the moment if it hit any incoming rockets.

Iraqi Airways, the country’s main carrier, said in a statement that the attack damaged one of its out of service planes parked near the airport but that operations were running normally and no delays were expected.

Iraqi security officials say “non-state’s terrorist gangs” targeted the aiport “in an attempt to target the national resources.”

The attack “seeks to undermine the government’s effort to restore Iraq’s regional role, and impede the activity of Iraqi Airways’ efforts to be at the forefront of countries in the field of transportation and air navigation and raise the challenges of its work,” Iraqi security officials said. Immediately after the attack, the Iraqi security and intelligence services found three rockets inside a launcher pad in Abu Ghraib district.

The attack is the latest in a series of rocket and drone strikes that have targeted the American presence in Iraq since the start of the year, following the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Pro-Iran Shiite factions in Iraq have vowed revenge for Soleimani’s killing and have conditioned the end of the attacks on the full exit of American troops from the country.

The U.S.-led coalition formally ended its combat mission supporting Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group last month and no longer operates its own facilities in Iraq. Some 2,500 troops will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.

Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.

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