The attack reportedly targeted several SUVs belonging to a leadership committee of the Popular Mobilization Forces, the collection of semi-independent militias tied to the Iraqi government that were formed to fight Daesh in 2014.
Breaking: the head of the PMF public relations & Protocol office was killed during the attack inside of Baghdad Airport, the PMF leadership and members attacked the #USEmbassy in #Baghdad two days ago pic.twitter.com/r90he9Q0dr— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) January 2, 2020
A Sky News reporter tweeted in Arabic about the potential deaths of PMF leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and Muhammad al-Kawtharani, a leader in Lebanon's Hezbollah, but these have not yet been confirmed.
There have also been conflicting reports that perhaps among the dead is Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, but that also remains unconfirmed.
At least eight people are reported dead in the attack, according to Agence France-Presse, citing Iraqi security officials.
The rocket attack comes just days after thousands of Iraqi protesters attempted to storm and set alight the US Embassy in Baghdad, prompting Washington to send 100 US Marines and several Apache attack helicopters to the Iraqi capital from neighboring Kuwait.
Local observers reported that US helicopters were once again in the air following news of the rocket attacks at the airport, which has since been temporarily closed.
#Baghdad airport cancels all flights due to unknown rocket attack that targeted departure terminal.— Barzan Sadiq (@BarzanSadiq) January 2, 2020
Video from the airport shows several locations on fire after the attack. Al Jazeera reported that the rockets landed near the joint US-Iraqi anti-terrorism center and that one rocket hit the air cargo zone near the civilian runway.
Breaking: prelim from military sources mentions two SUVs were hit in the vicinity of Baghdad International airport during the attack tonight( still trying to confirm if it was a direct hit by a drone or a typical militia rocket attack) pic.twitter.com/CwW2BZoqxF— Steven nabil (@thestevennabil) January 2, 2020
https://t.co/SeSYqwrXP8 It was a total of 4 rockets.— TØM CΛT (@TomtheBasedCat) January 2, 2020
-1 fell near a building housing Coalition forces
-1 fell on the tarmac from the military airport
-1 fell on the ICTS building
-the final one hit the outside road which resulted in the destruction of the 2 vehicles and injuries
Citing a security unit, Reuters reported that the rockets were fired from a Katyusha mobile rocket launcher, which date to the Second World War.
Baghdad International Airport was once home to a cluster of US military facilities, including an airfield, collectively called "Victory Base" during the US counterinsurgency war, and it retains the New Al-Muthana air base enclave on the airport's western side, near where the attack occurred.
A previous rocket attack on the counter-terrorism center on December 9, 2019, wounded six Iraqi members of the elite counter-terror unit.