Deccan Chronicle

US coalition in Iraq targeted


Baghdad, Jan.3: The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq on Monday shot down two armed drones targeting a compound at Baghdad airport hosting its personnel, a coalition official said.

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

“Two fixed-wing suicide drones, or improvised cruise missiles, attempted to attack Baghdad Airport this morning at approximat­ely 4:30 am” (0130 GMT), the official said.

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

The BDSC compound 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 January 3, 2020 US strike killed Soleimani — who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran's Revolution­ary Guards -- and Abu Mahdi alMuhandis, deputy leader of the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of armed groups.

Photos obtained by AFP from the coalition official show remains of one of the projectile­s from Monday’s attempted strike, with the message “commanders' revenge operations” written on it. “The Iraqis have opened 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.” The night-time strike two year ago, ordered by then-US president Donald Trump, hit a car in which Soleimani and Muhandis were travelling on the edge of the airport. The Hashed — a coalition of former paramilita­ry groups now integrated into the Iraqi state security apparatus — held a candle-lit vigil Sunday at the airport for the two men killed.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi vowed revenge against Donald Trump if the former US president is not tried over the killing of Qassem Soleimani, as Tehran marked two years since the commander's death. “The aggressor and the main assassin, the then president of the United States, must face justice and retributio­n,” Raisi said.

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