Iran attacked northern Iraq on Wednesday with more than 40 ballistic missiles and armed drones, one of which was shot down by a U.S. warplane as it headed toward the city of Erbil where American troops are based, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.
The strikes were by far the largest and most deadly in recent days by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has carried out repeated bombardments of Kurdish areas in northern Iraq since last week, after publicly blaming Iranian Kurdish separatist groups based there for fomenting unrest that has swept across Iran.
At least 13 people were killed in the bombardment, including at least one pregnant woman, according to a statement by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s counterterrorism force. Another 58 people were injured, including multiple children, according to the statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was looking into the possibility that a U.S. citizen was killed in the attack, a spokesman said.
Smoke rises from the headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party on the outskirts of Kirkuk, Iraq, after an Iranian strike on Wednesday.
An Iranian Mojer-6 drone was shot down with an air-to-air missile fired from the U.S. F-15E fighter that had to be scrambled to intercept the drone, according to a defense official.
In a statement, U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said the drone was shot down Wednesday afternoon local time as it “appeared a threat to Centcom forces in the area.”
The statement added: “Such indiscriminate attacks threaten innocent civilians and the hard-fought stability of the region.”
Other drones and the Iranian short-range Fateh-110 ballistic missiles struck camps and bases used by Iranian Kurdish militants and refugees on the outskirts of Erbil and near Sulaimaniyah, another largely Kurdish Iraqi city.
The Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s security force, launched the artillery attacks against “anti-Iran terrorist groups” in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, the Revolutionary Guard said in a statement carried by the state news agency, IRNA.
Protests have continued across Iran over the death of a young woman taken into custody for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Thursday that the incident was under investigation. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Iran in recent years has regularly carried out such attacks targeting what it has said are Iranian Kurdish separatist groups hiding across the northwestern border in Iraq’s mountainous Kurdish region. Iranian authorities said the dissidents were involved in protests that erupted in Iran’s Kurdish region following the funeral of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on Sept. 17 in her hometown in the area.
“This operation will continue with our full determination until the threat is effectively repelled,” the IRGC said.
In Washington, the White House condemned the Iranian strikes. “Iranian leaders continue to demonstrate flagrant disregard not only for the lives of their own people, but also for their neighbors,” said Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser. “Iran cannot deflect blame from its internal problems and the legitimate grievances of its population with attacks across its borders.”
U.S. commanders were concerned that the downed drone might have been heading for a base used by U.S. troops near the Erbil airport, though there is no firm evidence that the installation was the target, the defense official said.
Numerous armed Kurdish separatist groups operate in Iran, many of whom have moved their base to the Iraqi side of the border to shelter from Iranian attacks.
“We strongly condemn these continuous attacks which result in the death of civilians and we call for an end to these violations,” the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government said.
—Ghassan Adnan contributed to this article.
Write to David S. Cloud at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.