Iraqi militias' drone assault on Kurdish HQ sparks media war between Baghdad and Erbil

Iraqi militias' drone assault on Kurdish HQ sparks media war between Baghdad and Erbil
Pro-Iran Iraqi militias have targeted Kurdish forces near Erbil with drones in an unprecedented attack, sparking a war of words between Kurdistan and Baghdad.
3 min read
01 January, 2024
Iraq's Kurdistan region maintains its own peshmerga armed forces [Getty]

In an unprecedented move, pro-Iran Iraqi militias late on Saturday launched drone attacks on the headquarters of Kurdish peshmerga forces at the resort of Salah Al-Din near Erbil, creating a media war between the official spokespersons of the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). 

Pro-Iran militias in Iraq have been targeting US forces in Iraq and Syria since Israel’s brutal war on Gaza began in October, including the Harir Airbase near Erbil. But this is the first time the militias have targeted the KRG peshmerga forces. Both the KRG and pro-Iran militias have official sanction from the Iraqi government.

“Late on the night of December 30, two explosive-laden drones attacked a base of the KRG peshmerga in the Pirmam [Salahadin] area of Erbil, fortunately the attacks caused only material damage,” Peshawa Hawramani, the KRG spokesperson said in a statement. 

Hawramani said the attacks were “terrorist” and carried out by “an outlawed force” without specifying any specific militia. Hawramani held the unnamed group and the Iraqi federal government responsible for the attacks.

"These outlawed groups are financed and armed by the Iraqi government that indulges their movements of transferring arms, rockets, and drones to conduct terrorist attacks on formal and military institutions,” Hawramani said, accusing the Iraqi government of pursuing a “starvation” policy against the people of Kurdistan region. 

He said that the KRG was waiting for “practical steps” against the attacking groups, stressing that the Kurdish regional government reserved the right to respond. 

 Masrour Barzani, the KRG Prime Minister, strongly condemned the attacks in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“I'm deeply alarmed by last night's terrorist attack on a Peshmerga base northeast of Erbil. I condemn the outlaws and their collaborators in the strongest terms possible. We know well the issues at play here and the outlaws behind them, and have a right to defend our people,” Barzani wrote.   

Salahadin resort, 25Km northeast of the Kurdistan region’s capital city of Erbil, also includes the headquarters of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani on Sunday directed the security agencies to open a "comprehensive investigation into the criminal attack on the Salah al-Din resort in Erbil province,” according to a statement from the Security Media Cell published by the Iraqi News Agency (INA)

On the other hand, Basim Al-Awadi, an Iraqi Government spokesperson, expressed “astonishment” at the statements by the KRG spokesperson describing them as containing “unrealistic and irresponsible accusations”. 

"Based on its constitutional duties and powers, the Iraqi government renews its position rejecting attacks targeting any Iraqi land, whether in the [KRG] region or the rest of the governorates, and confirms its continued pursuit of those involved, to hand them over to the judiciary to receive their just punishment," Awadi said.

Militias supported by Iran that call themselves "the Islamic Resistance in Iraq" have launched hundreds of attacks since October targeting bases hosting US forces, such as Ain al-Asad in western Iraq and Victoria military base near Baghdad International Airport.

The militias say their attacks are in response to Washington's support for Israel's brutal war on Gaza, which has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in the past three months.