ARBIL: An explosives-packed drone slammed into Iraq’s Arbil airport on Wednesday — the first reported use of such a weapon against a base used by US-led troops in the country.

There were no casualties in the strike on the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, although it did cause damage to a building in the military part of the airport.

It comes after 20 bomb and rocket attacks blamed on pro-Iran armed groups against facilities used by coalition troops or diplomats in Iraq since US President Joe Biden took office in January.

The attacks have mostly been claimed by shadowy armed groups aligned with Iran who are demanding the Biden administration set a pullout date for Iraq as it has for Afghanistan.

“A drone packed with TNT targeted a coalition base at Arbil airport,” the Kurdish region’s interior ministry said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which caused an explosion heard across Arbil.

But a shadowy pro-Iranian group calling itself Awliyaa al Dam (Guardians of Blood), which claimed a previous attack on the same airport in February, hailed the strike on the messaging app Telegram.

In the February attack, more than a dozen rockets targeted the military complex inside the airport, killing an Iraqi civilian and a foreign contractor working with US-led troops.

Washington, which has promised to withdraw the troops it deployed in support of Baghdad’s successful fightback against the militant Islamic State group but has resisted setting a date, said it was “outraged” by the latest violence.

“The Iraqi people have suffered for far too long from this kind of violence and violation of their sovereignty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021

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