Reporting and Photography by Christopher Dowd
Scene of Rocket hit in Naz Naz part of Erbil, Kurdistan Region Governance.
Update: Originally one man died but a week later a second man, who worked at a market between the launch site and the U.S. Military Base at Erbil Airport, succumbed to his injuries.
Yesterday in Erbil, the Capital of the Autonomous Kurdistan Regional Governance, rockets fell around the city which has rarely been effected by the recent Wars in Iraq. This is the second rocket attack from this group on Erbil, both aimed at a coalition base for Operation Inherent Resolve, since October. The rockets were launched by part of Hash'd Shaabi, better known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, a Shi'ite Militia that was previously run but Iranian General Qassem Soleimani before he was killed in an airstrike ordered during the previous administration in the United States. Hash'd Shaabi is a massive group though, , the branch that committed this attack calls themselves Saraya Awliya al-Dam, not to be confused with Awliya al Dam, as reported by the New York Times, which is a Salafist Libyan Militia with the Libyan National Army under Command of General Khalifa Haftar which fights against the Libyan Government.
Currently Hash'd Shaabi, are in near full control of Iraqs Second City of Mosul, manning checkpoints with American M-4's sent from Baghdad after Baghdad incorporated them into the Iraqi Army, they are easily recognized in their all Black clothing, similar to ISIS although unlike their Libyan Counterpart or ISIS, they are a Shi'ite jihadist group that believe in a radical form of the Muslim Religion. Although they receive American Weapons from Baghdad, where America routes almost all weapons to Iraq through, while mainly sending some vehicles and more non-lethal aid to Erbil in the Autonomous Kurdistan Regional Governance, the Hash'd Shaabi also receive weapons from Iran. It was Iranian weapons used during the Erbil Rocket attack, more specifically a rocket system used was the Fajr-1 which is a mobile rocket launcher that shoots 107 mm rounds and holds 12 rockets.
Iranian Fajr-1 107 mm rocket, usually shot from a multiple rocket launcher on a truck or trailer.
One important fact is that unlike the last rocket attack which missed and landed in an open field near the airport this rocket was not shot from Mosul, which is located fifty-one miles away, the Kia and Fajr-1 rocket system were found just on the outskirts of the City of Erbil, between Gwer and Erbil, only a few miles away from the Erbil International Airport where the U.S. Base is located, likely because the rocket system used only has a range of 5.1 miles. Other areas hit other than the airport was a market that sells fruit, vegetables and lamb right near the airport. Other locations hit were multiple residential areas including the affluent area of Waziran, Baktihari, along with Gulan Street close to the border of Baktihari and Ankawa, not far from either the Turkish Embassy on Gulan Street and less than one mile from the United States Consulate in Ankawa.
Damage on Gulan Street done by one of the volley of Iranian rockets that were shot into Erbil last night by a Shi'ite Militia that aims to attack U.S. interest in the region
The branch of Hash'd Shaabi, known as Popular Mobilization Forces in the West, which also includes Kata'ib Hezbollah, or "Brigades of the Party of God" in English, which has been blamed for many attacks against Western Interest in the Region, Saraya Awliya al-Dam, or the "Guardians of Blood Brigades" has promised more attacks in the west. Below is a Communique promising more attacks against American Interest in the area. With an English translation below it.
Communique by Saraya Awliya al-Dam
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq Islamic Resistance in Iraq Guardians of Blood Brigades
Guardians Of Blood Issue: 4 Date: 2/16/2021
A statement in the name of God when we decided to invest the lands of Iraqi Kurdistan to strike the American occupation bases yesterday, as we want to say the following:
-1 The American occupation will not be safe and stable even if it transfers its bases to a puppet government that welcomes it as an occupier on our land there.
-2 We wanted to say to some Kurdish politicians that you are taking the wrong path, and if you do not straighten out your people with our missiles that we are still storing in Kurdistan and Erbil in particular.
3- Dear Kurdish leaders, you have always welcomed the Turkish occupation of the land of Iraq, and that Mr. Masoud Barzani is the first games of the Turkish occupation and their entry into our beloved Iraq.
4 - We affirm that all civilians and soldiers from our Kurdish people are brothers and dear ones, and that we only target the bases of the American, Turkish and Israeli occupation.
5- As we walk in the streets and alleys of the beloved Erbil and live in its homes and hotels, we do not think of harming anyone, and from here we call on our family and brothers in the security forces to stay away from the bases of the American, Turkish and Israeli occupation.
6- The attempt to stultify and diminish the size of our painful strikes yesterday is a habit that we have been familiar with from the enemy's flags and commissaries. As for the truth, it is that senior officers and American soldiers were killed with our missiles yesterday, and that the occupier’s buildings, stores and aircraft were burned to rubble, and some of them began to explode until the early morning hours.
7 - The type of rockets and the method of their launch terrified the occupation yesterday to the extent that they did not seek the location of their launch until after the Awliya al-Dam Brigades announced the details of the operation and the place of its execution with a previous statement.
8- Erbil International Airport will be always safe, and we will never target it. If we wanted to, it would be much easier for us.
Peace be upon the blood of the martyrs, peace be upon Abu Mahdi, the engineer, Saraya Awliya al-Dam