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Iraqi army: Rockets hit Baghdad airport, damage two planes


BAGHDAD (AP) — Six rockets struck Baghdad’s international airport facility on Friday, damaging two commercial planes but causing no casualties, Iraq’s military said in a statement.

The rockets fired in the early morning landed on planes parked in a waiting area of Iraqi Airways, the country’s national carrier, the statement said. One rocket punched a gaping hole in the cockpit area of the plane.

The attack marks an escalation of a series of rocket and drone strikes that have targeted the US and their allies as well as Iraqi government institutions since the start of the year. Most attacks targeting the airport did not cause heavy damage or affect civilian areas of the airport facility.

The recent uptick followed the second anniversary of the US strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The military said launch pads for the missiles had been located in the nearby Abu Ghraib area.

The airport contains an Iraqi military base that hosts US and other coalition advisors.

The rockets landed between the civilian and military areas of the airport, two security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press.

The airline said in a statement that the attack had damaged one of its out-of-service planes parked near the airport but that operations were running normally and no delays were expected.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi condemned the attack, calling it an attempt “to undermine Iraq’s reputation, that we have endeavoured to restore in the region and internationally.”

The attack on the airport aimed to undermine confidence in Iraq’s security, as well as impede the work of the airline, according to the Iraqi military and the prime minister. Al-Kadhimi called on Iraqi political parties to unequivocally condemn the attack and support Iraqi security forces in the search for those responsible.

Their silence over the frequency of attacks has served as a cover for perpetrators, al-Kadhimi said. He also called on the international community not to place restrictions on travel to Iraq as a result of the attack.

The U.N. condemned the rising number of “despicable” attacks in a statement urging political actors to act together and expose the culprits.

Pro-Iran Shiite factions in Iraq have vowed revenge for Soleimani’s killing and have conditioned the end of the attacks on the full exit of American troops from the country.

The US-led coalition formally ended its combat mission supporting Iraqi forces in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group last month. Some 2,500 troops will remain as the coalition shifts to an advisory mission to continue supporting Iraqi forces.

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