February 16, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9188

Iran-Backed Iraqi Militia Claims Rocket Attack On Erbil Base Killed Senior U.S. Officers, Says More Attacks Will Follow If Kurdistan Leadership Continues To Host U.S. Forces, Allow Turkish Military Incursion

February 16, 2021
Iran, Iraq, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 9188

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On February 16, 2021, Saraya Awlia' Al-Dam (The Guardian of Blood Brigades), an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, issued a statement on its Telegram channel highlighting the reasons behind the group's rocket attack, carried out on February 15, which targeted a military base housing U.S. forces in Erbil, northern Iraq. The statement suggested that further attacks may be carried out in the Kurdistan region if the regional government continues to cooperate with U.S. forces and continues to allow Turkish military activity within Iraq's borders.[1]

Earlier, Telegram channels affiliated with Saraya Awlia' Al-Dam shared a statement issued by the group claiming that its fighters fired 24 missiles on Al-Harir military base in Erbil. It added that the missiles were launched only seven kilometers away from the base.[2]

The newly-founded militia, which is believed to be a front group affiliated with Shi'ite militias in Iraq, has previously claimed responsibility for several IED attacks on U.S. logistical supply convoys in southern Iraq. The group's follow-up statement claimed that this time, its fighters chose to launch an attack from the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq attack because they wanted to signal to U.S. forces that they are within the group's reach.

The statement further explained that the attack was intended as a warning for the Kurdistan regional government for providing a haven for the U.S. "occupier," and facilitating the Turkish "occupation" of northern Iraq, referring to Turkish military activity against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iraqi territory.[3]

The February 16 statement reads: "When we decided to use the lands of Iraq's Kurdistan to target the U.S. occupation yesterday, we wanted to convey the following [messages]:

"1- The U.S. occupation [forces] will not be safe, even if they move their bases to [an area under the control] of an agent government [i.e., the Kurdistan regional government] that welcomes them as an occupier in our own land [i.e., northern Iraq.]

"2- We wanted to tell some Kurdish politicians that they are following the wrong path. If you do not straighten up, we will make sure you will with our rockets, which we are still storing in Kurdistan, and particularly in Erbil.

"3- You, the Kurdish leaders, continue to welcome the Turkish occupation of the land of Iraq. Mr. Masoud Barazni is the original godfather of the Turkish occupation and invasion of our beloved Iraq.

"4- We stress that the civilians and military members of our Kurdish people are our brothers and are dear to us. We shall not target anyone other than U.S., Turkish, and Israeli bases.

"5- As we wander the streets and alleys of Erbil, and live in Erbil's houses and hotels, we are not thinking of targeting anyone. We urge our people and our brothers in the security forces to stay away from U.S., Turkish, and Israeli bases.

"6- The attempt to undermine the significance of the painful blows we struck yesterday is part of a pattern that is often adhered to by enemy's media and its proxies. The truth is that our rockets killed  U.S. senior officers and soldiers yesterday, and that the buildings and storage structures for the occupier's aircrafts were turned to wreckage, even though some did not explode until the early hours of the morning.  

"7- The kind of rockets we used, and the way they were launched, terrorized the occupier yesterday, to the extent that [U.S. forces] could not identify the location of the launch site until Saraya Awlia' Al-Dam announced the location and the details of the operation, in a statement issued earlier.

"8- Erbil International Airport will remain permanently safe. We shall not target it, even though doing so would be much easier for us."

The statement concluded by paying tribute to slain IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassim Soleimani and PMU Commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhadis, and by pledging to continue to avenge their killing in a U.S. drone strike until the U.S. is ousted from Iraq. 



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