Iraq jails four men for life for rocket attack on Baghdad airport

Government-linked militias have been blamed for attacks on Iraq's main international airport

A handout picture released by the Facebook page of the Iraqi ministry of transportation, shows a damaged stationary aircraft on the tarmac of Baghdad airport, after rockets reportedly targeted the runway, on January 28, 2022.

Iraq has sentenced four men to life in prison in connection with a rocket attack in January on Baghdad International Airport that damaged two Iraqi Airways planes on the runway.

Attacks on the airport, once carried out by Al Qaeda or ISIS, have in recent years been the work of Iran-backed militias in a government-linked umbrella organisation, the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

Baghdad's airport hosts a joint coalition-Iraqi military training facility that hosts members of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Service, or CTS. Some PMF groups have claimed the US-trained CTS operates on behalf of the US.

The court “sentenced to life four criminals who took part” in the attack, according to a statement by Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council, without saying which group they belonged to.

In June 2020, CTS forces raided what was described as a small base of the Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah, after receiving information that the group was planning to launch a rocket attack at the airport.

Fourteen members of the group, which worked closely with Iranian Quds Force general Qassem Suleimani before his death near the airport in a US drone strike, were arrested.

But influential Iran-linked figures in Iraq’s government created a political outcry and the men were later released from a PMF-supervised detention centre. Analysts said this was a sign of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi's inability to bring the militias under firm government control.

Sunday’s conviction was for a January 28 rocket attack on Baghdad's international airport using six unguided rockets. Mr Al Kadhimi had warned there would be a “decisive response” to the attack.

Updated: August 08, 2022, 8:26 AM