Iran launched another ballistic missile and drone-bombing campaign on Wednesday, attacking the bases of an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in Northern Iraq, killing at least nine civilians and wounding dozens of others, Roj news reported.
Unconfirmed local reports place the number of casualties as high as 13. Iraqi Kurdistan region’s Health Ministry reported nine casualties and 32 wounded.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been bombing Kurdish parties based on the border of Iran’s Kurdistan province since the death of Jîna Mahsa Amini sparked widespread protests, but Wednesday’s bombings mark the first time they targeted Iraqi territory.
Six missiles hit Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) bases in the town of Koya, 65 kilometres east of Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil. Five people were killed in the missile strike, while another 18 were wounded.
The attacks also targeted a school in the town of Koya where students and teachers were present.
The IRCG bombing targeted civilian populated areas, including dwellings. Women, children and farmers in the zone were reported to have fled in the aftermath.
On the same day, another bombing of a Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) base in Prde near Kirkuk province killed five members of the party. Another 14 people were wounded in the attack.
Suicided drones targeted a base of the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan in the Zirgwez village, 15 km to the east of Suleymania province. Three people were wounded.
The Kurdistan region’s Health Ministry confirmed that there were both civilians and members of Kurdish opposition parties among casualties. Some of them were reportedly women and children.
Iran accuses KDP-I, PAK and Komala of fuelling the protest across the country.
In a statement on Wednesday, IRGC Ground Forces Commander General Mohammad Pakpour said that 73 ballistic missiles had been fired at Kurdish opposition groups based in Iraq’s Kurdish region.
Pakpour added that the operation would continue to target what he called terrorists in the region to “ensure sustainable border security and punish criminal terrorists” and hold officials in northern Iraq accountable for fulfilling their legal duties under international regulations.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) strongly condemned Iran’s bombardment and said the attack on the Kurdish opposition group under any pretext was wrong, resulting in the death of civilians, and called on Iran to stop the attacks.
“We strongly condemn Iran’s attack on the Kurdish groups, and the attack must be stopped, and all parties should solve their problem through negotiations,” the Kurdistan National Kongress (KNK) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Iran is not the only force conducting cross-border operations in Iraqi territory, KNK said, pointing to Turkey’s military operations against Kurdish lands and occupation of certain areas for over a decade. “The attack is not against the armed group in Kurdistan but all Kurdish people,” it said.
The United States and Britain also condemned Wednesday’s strikes on the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
“The United States strongly condemns the drone and missile attack launched against Iraq’s Kurdistan region,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We stand with Iraq’s leaders in the Kurdistan region and Baghdad in condemning these attacks as an assault on the sovereignty of Iraq and its people.”
Sullivan called Iran’s actions a “flagrant disregard not only for the lives of their own people, but also for their neighbors and the core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter”.
“Iran must cease its indiscriminate bombardment of Kurdish towns which has led to the loss of innocent lives and damaged civilian infrastructure,” the British Foreign Office said in another statement.