KRG PM says preliminary probe into Erbil rocket attack given ‘good indications’

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani speaks to France 24 via satellite from Erbil, February 27, 2021.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said on Saturday that a preliminary probe into a rocket attack on Erbil has given “a good indication of who was behind it”.

Nearly 14 rockets were launched toward Erbil city on February 15, according to the U.S.-led Coalition forces. Three of the rockets impacted within a base hosting Coalition troops near Erbil international airport.

Coalition Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said the attack killed a civilian contractor and wounded nine others, including a U.S. service member.

The attack also killed two civilians and wounded seven others, according to health officials in the Region.

“Investigations started immediately after the attack. There has been some good indications of whom maybe behind it,” Barzani said during an interview with France 24.

“Because this investigation is still ongoing, I’d prefer to wait for the investigation to reveal the results when the work is done. It is unfinished work until now, but it was definitely a terrorist attack to destabilize the region of Kurdistan Region,” Barzani added.

On Feb. 25, Barzani said the security forces had been able to identify perpetrators responsible for the rocket attack on Erbil, but he did not provide further details.

A group calling itself “Avengers of Blood”, or Saraya Awliya al-Dam, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack on Erbil in a statement on social media, saying it targeted “American occupation” and that it was “the beginning of the game”.

Barzani said during the interview that they could not count on statements from groups claiming responsibility for the attack.

“We have to wait for the results of the investigation to identify the perpetrators. Like I said, there has been great achievements, good progress,” he said.

On Thursday, the United States conducted airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria at the direction of President Joe Biden. U.S. officials said the attack was a calibrated response to rocket attacks against personnel in Iraq.

The U.S. strikes targeted militia sites on the Syrian side of the Iraqi-Syrian border, where groups backed by Iran control an important crossing for weapons, personnel and goods.

Local sources and one medical source in eastern Syria told Reuters at least 17 people had been killed, but gave no further details. That toll could not be confirmed.

“The U.S. obviously has conducted this operation on credible evidence,” Barzani said.

“We support any effort to stop destabilization of Iraq, especially Kurdistan Region,” Barzani said in response to a question whether he approved the U.S. operation in Syria.

Biden’s decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq, at least for now, gives Iraq’s government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation into the Erbil attack, which also wounded Americans.

Kataib Hezbollah has denied any involvement in recent attacks against U.S. interests. Iran also denies involvement in attacks on U.S. sites.

Several attacks, including the one on Erbil airport, have been claimed by little-known groups which some Iraqi and Western officials say are a front for the established Iran-backed groups like Kataib Hezbollah.

They say this is a way for Iranian allies to harass U.S. forces without being held accountable.

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