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Rocket Attacks in Iraq Pose New Challenge to Pope’s Visit

The attacks pose another challenge to what is already considered a dangerous and complex trip for the Pope.

Less than three weeks before Pope Francis’s well-anticipated visit to Iraq, rockets were fired on Monday at the airport and civilian areas of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan. The Pope is scheduled to visit the city during his March 5 to 8 apostolic visit to the country.

According to reports, the Iraqi armed group “Guardian of Blood Brigades” claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks that killed a US military contractor and left six others wounded. Some 24 rockets were said to have been fired at the airport.

“The targeting of Erbil that claimed victims represents a dangerous escalation and a criminal terrorist act against national efforts to protect the security of the country and the safety of its citizens,” Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a tweet.

“We have no choice but to firmly strengthen our efforts to root out the forces of terror and their attempts to plunge the country into chaos.” (Read: Catholics Place Statue of Mary on War-Damaged Church in Iraq)

Countless Attacks

Rockets fell on civilian areas of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq, during an attack targeting a US base at the city’s airport (Photo from Reuters/The Telegraph)

In 2018, the Iraqi government with the help of international forces successfully defeated ISIS troops across the country. However, attacks by rogue armed groups continued to persist through the years. Their main targets are foreign targets in different parts of Iraq.

In Erbil, fewer attacks have taken place in recent months. Local news agency Rudaw reports that the latest attacks in the city of Kurdistan happened in September, when the airport was again the target.

Apostolic Visit to Iraq

An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends Mass Sunday at Mar Girgis Church in Baghdad. (Photo from CNS / Reuters / Ahmed Malik / National Catholic Reporter)

Despite the rocket attacks, preparations are now underway for Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq. “It will be a huge event for which we are preparing as best as we can,” said the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda. (Read: Catholics in Iraq Begin Prayers for Pope Francis’s Visit)

The Pope is scheduled to make his apostolic visit to Iraq from March 5 to 8, 2021. He will be flying to Erbil on March 7 to meet with religious and civil authorities and say Mass in the Franso Hariri Stadium for some 10,000 people.

To know more about the Pope’s schedule of visits to different cities in Iraq, click here.

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