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Iraq’s Kurdish Airport Hit by Deadly Drone Attack, 6 Killed

On September 18, 2023, a devastating drone attack rocked the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, specifically targeting Arbat airport, situated near the city of Sulaymaniyah. This attack brought about the grievous loss of somewhere around six lives and left a few others injured.

The incident has raised critical worries about the heightening pressures in the region and the possible involvement of neighboring countries, particularly Turkey and Iran.

Kurdish Airport Hit by Deadly Drone Attack, 6 Killed

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The Arbat airport, located roughly 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Sulaimaniya, had principally been utilized for agricultural purposes up to this point when it went through rehabilitation to serve as a training facility for Kurdish counterterrorism forces.

The attack occurred in the midst of the airport’s transition from an agricultural site to a vital security infrastructure, intensifying its strategic significance.

The attack resulted in the loss of six lives, including members of the Kurdish counter-terrorism task force stationed at the airport. Three extra staff from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces were harmed in the attack, further featuring the seriousness of the incident.

The identities of the victims remained undisclosed at the time of reporting, raising questions about their affiliations and roles within the security apparatus.

While the exact culprits behind the drone attack stay obscure, several factors point towards the involvement of external actors.

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Notably, Turkish drones had been observed in the vicinity of Sulaymaniyah in the days leading up to the attack, raising suspicions about Turkey’s potential role.

Moreover, Iraq’s Kurdistan region has been a point of convergence for both Turkish and Iranian military operations against Kurdish insurgent groups.

Turkey has a long history of conducting military operations in northern Iraq, especially targeting on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Kurdish separatist group that has engaged in a protracted insurgency against Turkey.

Turkish drone strikes in the region have become increasingly common, and these strikes often target areas believed to be affiliated with the PKK. In April, Turkey even shut its airspace to flights to and from Sulaymaniyah International Airport, citing alleged Kurdish militant activity.

Iran, one more provincial power with interests in the Kurdish region, has likewise been known to involve drones in its military activities. Iranian authorities have repeatedly issued threats against Kurdish opposition groups and demanded their removal from specific areas in northern Iraq.

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The attack on Arbat airport might be viewed as a component of Iran’s efforts to assert control and suppress dissent within the Kurdish region, which is home to a significant population of Kurdish Iranians who have sought refuge in Iraq.

The attack on Arbat airport highlights the instability of the Kurdish area and its helplessness to external interventions.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has attempted to keep up with strength and security, particularly in the face of conflicting interests and power struggles involving neighboring countries.

The Sulaymaniyah governorate issued a statement urging regional countries to respect the sovereignty of both the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

This implies that the attack on Arbat airport may have been carried out without the consent of the Iraqi government, raising concerns about violations of territorial integrity and international law.

Turkey’s aggressive approach towards targeting PKK-affiliated groups in Iraq has strained its relations with both the KRG and the central Iraqi government.

While Turkey justifies its actions as necessary for national security, it has faced criticism for violating Iraq’s sovereignty and exacerbating regional instability.

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