The internal security service for Iraq's independent Kurdish region, of which Erbil is the capital, originally said three rockets had hit near the airport. The strike in Iraq's Kurdistan region comes on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. It is the second drone attack on the airport in as many months.
A second statement by the Kurdish counter-terrorism force said the attack had been carried out by explosive-laden drones. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Witnesses said they heard at least six explosions in the area.
The airport in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, has come under attack several times in the past year, including by drones carrying explosives. U.S. officials blame previous attacks on Iran-aligned Shi'ite Muslim militias which have promised to fight until the remaining 2,500 U.S. military staff leave the country.
The U.S. forces are attending an international military alliance whose charge is to help Iraqi forces fight parts of the Sunni extremist Islamic State group. The alliance did not immediately comment on Saturday's incident.
This is the second attack in two months, with one drone striking the airport in July. There were no injuries or any structural damage. That attack came a day after rockets and a drone targeted Ain al-Asad airbase, which houses U.S. troops, and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. In April, a drone dropped explosives near the U.S. forces stationed at Erbil airport.
That was the first known attack carried out by an unmanned aerial drone against U.S. forces in Erbil, amid a steady stream of rocket attacks on bases hosting U.S. forces and the embassy in Baghdad that Washington blames on Iran-backed militias.
A video allegedly released by Kurdistan Counter-Terrorism Forces and posted to Twitter by the account Aurora Intel appears to show Erbil Airport after the attack. The video shows flames billowing into the night sky while other videos published to social media purport to show the airport going dark after the alleged rocket attack.
Lawk Ghafuri, head of foreign media relations for the Kurdistan Regional Government, said on Twitter that Kurdish security forces were studying the incident.
“The drone was carrying explosive devices and exploded away from Erbil International Airport’s terminals and territories. No casualties are reported,” Ghafuri said.
The airport, which also serves as the base for United States-led coalition forces, suffered no damage, according to its director Ahmed Hochiar.