Two armed drones were shot down at the airport in Baghdad

The U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq on Monday shot down two armed drones targeting a facility at Baghdad airport hosting its staff, a coalition official said.

The incident, which was not claimed by any group, occurred two years after a US drone strike near the airport killed Iran’s revered General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant.

“Two fixed suicide drones, or improvised cruise missiles, tried to attack Baghdad airport this morning at around 04:30” (0130 GMT), the official told AFP.

A counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system, or C-RAM, “at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center engaged them and they were shot down without incident,” the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The BDSC association houses “a very small number of coalition troops who are not in a combat role,” the source said, describing them as logistical troops, contractors and civilian personnel.

The US attack on January 3, 2020, killed Soleimani – who led the Quds Force, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards foreign operations arm – and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy leader of the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of armed groups.

Pictures taken by AFP from the coalition official show the remains of one of the projectiles from Monday’s attempted attack, with the message “masters’ revenge operations” written on it.

“Iraqis have launched an investigation,” the coalition source said.

“There is no damage, but this is a civilian airport, it is very dangerous to launch this type of attack.”

Missile and drone attacks

The night strike two years ago, ordered by then-US President Donald Trump, hit a car that Soleimani and Muhandis were traveling on the outskirts of the airport.

Hashed – a coalition of former paramilitary groups now integrated into the Iraqi state security apparatus – held a candlelight vigil at the airport for the two men killed.

The United States then said that Soleimani was planning imminent action against US personnel in Iraq, a country that has long been torn between the competing demands of its main allies Washington and Tehran.

Five days after his killing, Iran fired missiles at an air base in Iraq that housed US troops and another near Arbil in the north of the country.

Since then, dozens of rockets and roadside bombs have targeted US security, military and diplomatic sites across Iraq.

Western officials have accused hardline pro-Iranian factions of the attacks, which have never been claimed.

The Hashed has repeatedly called for the withdrawal of US troops deployed in Iraq as part of the coalition.

The US-led coalition declared on December 9 that it had completed its combat mission in Iraq and that its approximately 2,500 troops would be transferred to a purely training and advisory role.

IS, which established a so-called caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq from 2014, was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by national forces and the coalition that has included more than 80 countries.

However, IS remnants are still carrying out attacks on security forces and civilians.

(AFP)

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