Bartella Rockets Target Erbil

Bartella Rockets Target Erbil

On Wednesday evening, six rockets were launched at the border of Bartella (Nineveh Province) towards Erbil International Airport. The targets were not hit and no damage was caused. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) called the Iraq Central Government (ICG) and asked that the perpetrators be held accountable.

Nineveh is a disputed territory between the KRG and ICG, but is currently largely controlled by Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) who are supposed to be under the authority of the ICG. This technicality is not observed in practice, as much of the PMF are loyal to Iran not Baghdad. PMF militia Brigade 30 controls the area around Bartella. This is notable for two reasons.

First, Bartella is a historically Christian village that was displaced because of the ISIS genocide. Locals have been unable to return because of forced demographic change largely encouraged by Brigade 30. Bartella is located a few minutes’ drive north of Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qeraqosh. Security related incidents in Bartella naturally impact Qeraqosh, and rockets fired from Bartella worsen the security environment, thus decreasing the confidence of Christians to live in their traditional homeland.

Second, Brigade 30 has come under much pressure from the United States. Last year, the US sanctioned their leader for gross human rights violations. Within the past few days, the US has taken a stronger stance against PMF militias (who frequently target foreign missions and bases) which has resulted in Baghdad forcing leadership change amongst some PMF units. Brigade 30’s commander was removed and replaced with his assistant. Brigade 30 has a long history of harassing and intimidating local Christians.