Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes that killed nine people in Iraq’s Kurdish region on Wednesday after Kurdish armed groups based there accused it of unleashing a wave of unrest in the Islamic republic.
The death of an Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, while in the custody of Iran’s morality police sparked a wave of protests and crackdowns that left scores of demonstrators dead in the past 12 nights.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran has accused in the last few days the Kurdish groups based in Iraq of “attacking and infiltrating Iran from the north-west of the country in order to create insecurity and riots and spread unrest”.
After several earlier cross-border attacks by Iran that resulted in no casualties, a barrage of missiles and drones on Wednesday claimed nine lives and injured 32, the regional health minister in Arbil, Saman al-Barazanji, said during a visit to some of the wounded in hospital. in the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.
“Civilians are among the victims”, including one of those killed, a senior official of the Kurdistan region told AFP earlier.
An AFP correspondent reported smoke billowing from hit sites, ambulances racing to the scene and residents fleeing, at Zargwez, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Sulaimaniyah, as doctors treated the wounded.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi federal government asked the Iranian ambassador to protest the deadly strikes, and the United Nations mission in Iraq condemned the attack, saying that “rocket diplomacy is a reckless act with consequences terrible”.
“These attacks must stop immediately,” the UN mission said on Twitter.
– ‘Cowardly attacked’ –
Other strikes on Wednesday destroyed buildings around Zargewz, where some Iranian Kurdish exiles maintain offices.
“The area we are in has been hit by 10 drone strikes,” Atta Nasser, an official from Komala, an exiled Iranian group, told AFP, blaming Iran for the strikes.
“The headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party has been hit by Iranian strikes,” Hussein Yazdan, an official from the party, told AFP about the site in the Sherawa region, south of Arbil.
Another group, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, said “missiles and drones” hit its bases and headquarters in Koysinjaq, east of Arbil.
“These cowardly attacks are happening at a time when the terrorist regime of Iran is not able to crack down on continuous internal protests and silence the Kurdish and Iranian civil front,” he tweeted.
– Bee-guided attack drones –
Amini, 22, died in Tehran on September 16, three days after he was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women that requires hijab scarves and modest clothing.
Her death sparked Iran’s biggest protests in nearly three years and a crackdown that killed at least 76 people, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, or “around 60”, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. .
Protests have progressed particularly Kurdish communities in western Iran that have strong ties to areas in Iraq where Kurds live.
Many Iranian Kurds cross the border into Iraq to find work, due to an economic crisis in Iran that is heavily influenced by US sanctions.
Iran’s state television said on Sunday of earlier attacks that the Revolutionary Guards targeted the headquarters of several separatist terrorist groups in northern Iraq with missiles and precision-guided attack drones.
Two days later, Guards General Abbas Nilforoushan, deputy operations officer, said that “the establishment of bases by the enemies of the Islamic Revolution in this region is not acceptable,” Tasnim news agency reported.
“For some time now, counter-revolutionary elements have been attacking and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and riots and to spread unrest.”
He added that “some of these counter-revolutionary elements were arrested during some riots in the northwest (of Iran), so we had to protect ourselves, respond and bomb the border strip environment.”