Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Wednesday, killing nine people, after accusing Kurdish armed groups stationed there of fueling a wave of unrest that has rocked the Islamic Republic.
The death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, 22, on September 16 while in the custody of Iran’s morality police has sparked a large wave of protests and a crackdown that has claimed the lives of scores of protesters over the past 12 nights.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has in recent days accused Iraq-based Kurdish groups of “attacking and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and unrest and spread unrest.”
After several previous Iranian cross-border attacks that left no casualties, rocket and drone fire claimed nine lives and wounded 32 on Wednesday, Arbil regional health minister Saman al-Barazanji said while visiting some wounded at a hospital in the capital autonomous region of Kurdistan in Iraq.
“Among the casualties are civilians,” including one of those killed, a senior Kurdistan Region official previously told AFP.
An AFP correspondent reported that in Zargwez, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Sulaimaniyah, smoke billowed from affected sites, ambulances rushed to the scene and residents fled while medics treated the wounded.
In Baghdad, the Iraqi federal government called on the Iranian ambassador to protest the deadly attacks, while the UN mission in Iraq deplored the attack, saying “missile diplomacy is a reckless act with devastating consequences”.
“These attacks must be stopped immediately,” the UN mission said on Twitter.
– “Cowardly Attacks” –
Other strikes on Wednesday destroyed buildings around Zargewz, where several exiled left-wing Iranian Kurdish parties have offices.
“The area where we are has been hit by 10 drone strikes,” Atta Nasser, an official with Komala, an exiled Iranian group, told AFP, blaming Iran for the attacks.
“The headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party was hit by Iranian attacks,” Hussein Yazdan, a party official, told AFP about the location in the Sherawa region south of Erbil.
Another group, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, said its bases and headquarters in Koysinjaq, east of Erbil, were hit by “missiles and drones”.
“These cowardly attacks come at a time when Iran’s terror regime is unable to deal with the ongoing internal protests and silence the civilian resistance of the Kurdish and Iranian people,” it tweeted.
– Precision Guided Attack Drones –
Amini, 22, died in Tehran on September 16, three days after she was arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women, which requires them to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothing.
Her death sparked the largest protests in Iran in nearly three years and a crackdown that has 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 particularly rocked Kurdish communities in western Iran, which have strong ties to Kurdish-populated areas of Iraq.
Many Iranian Kurds are crossing the border into Iraq to find work due to a biting economic crisis in Iran, largely caused by US sanctions.
Iranian state television said Sunday that the “Revolutionary Guards had attacked the headquarters of several separatist terrorist groups in northern Iraq with missiles and precision-guided attack drones.”
Two days later, Deputy Guards General Abbas Nilforoushan said that “the establishment of a base by the enemies of the Islamic Revolution in this region is unacceptable,” Tasnim news agency reported.
“For some time, counter-revolutionary elements have been grabbing and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and unrest and spread unrest.”
He added that several of these “anti-revolutionary elements were arrested during some riots in north-west (Iran), so we had to defend ourselves, react and bomb around the border strip”.