Two people arrested over Erbil rocket attack: security source

A combined picture of a vehicle from which six rockets fired toward Erbil international airport and a place where the rockets fell near the airport, September 30, 2020. Esta Media Network

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Two people including an Iraqi army brigadier general and commander of Hashid al-Shaabi’s 30th Brigade have been arrested over rocket attack on Erbil, Reuters cited a security source as saying.

Six rockets fired toward Erbil international airport on Wednesday night (September 30), but missed their target, the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

The rockets were launched from Bartila between the villages of Sheikh Amir and Tarjila in Nineveh province, which is under the jurisdiction of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) 30th Brigade, the interior ministry added.

“A security source said two men were arrested: an Iraqi army brigadier general and the commander of the PMF’s 30th Brigade,” Reuters cited a security source as saying.

Iraqi Joint Operations Command blamed a “terrorist group” for the rocket attack, saying the rockets were launched from the Turjala valley in Hamdaniyah district in Nineveh province.

Reuters cited the Iraqi military as saying that the local commanders responsible for securing the launch area had been detained pending an investigation.

The Kurdistan Region’s Counter-Terrorism Service blamed the attack on PMF militias.

Meanwhile, the Nineveh Operations Command of Hashid al-Shaabi said in a statement that it was surprised by what it called “hasty reactions” to the rocket attack in Erbil.

It further said the area where the rockets were launched is considered to be “an inhabited void area” located within a triangle surrounded by the Iraqi military, PMF and Peshmerga forces.

No group claimed immediate responsibility for the attack, which occurred hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi pledged in a meeting with top diplomats to protect foreign missions and limit possession of weapons to state forces following a U.S. threat to shut down its embassy in Baghdad.

Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani “strongly” condemned the rocket attack in a tweet, saying he had spoken with Kadhimi on “the importance of holding the perpetrators accountable”.

“The KRG will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Kurdistan’s stability and our response will be robust,” Barzani tweeted.

CNN cited a U.S. defense official with direct knowledge of the latest reports as saying that initial indicators “are that three rockets struck a base where U.S. troops are located, with additional rockets hitting outside the base”.

“The U.S. had some initial indications the rockets might have been larger than those typically used, but officials are still trying to confirm that,” CNN reported.

The attack was “troubling because of the number of rockets involved and the possible use of larger-scale weapons,” CNN cited the official as saying.

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