13 dead in Iranian attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq

The attacks come after protests have rocked Iran for the past 11 days, particularly the country’s western Kurdistan province, near the Iraqi border.

A view of a drone during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 24, 2022. Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS
A view of a drone during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image [File: Iranian Army/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Reuters]

Iran has attacked an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, killing 13 people and injuring several others, officials said.

The missile and drone attacks on Wednesday focused on bases in Koya, some 60km (35 miles) east of Erbil, said Soran Nuri – a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. The group, known by the acronym KDPI, is a left-wing armed opposition force that is banned in Iran.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and broadcaster said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps ground forces targeted some bases of a separatist group in the north of Iraq with “precision missiles” and a “suicide drone”.

“This operation will continue with our full determination until the threat is effectively repelled, terrorist groups’ bases are dismantled, and the authorities of the Kurdish region assume their obligations and responsibilities,” the IRGC said in a statement read on state television.

Thirteen people were killed and 58 wounded, according to Iraq’s state news agency.

Tariq Haidari, the mayor of Koya, said that one of the dead was a pregnant woman.

Iranian authorities have accused Iranian-Kurdish separatists based in northern Iraq of involvement in protests in Iran that have led to the deaths of dozens of people.

The Iranian drone attacks targeted a military camp, homes, offices and other areas around Koya, Nuri said. Nuri described the attack as ongoing.

Following the first series of attacks, Iran then shelled seven positions in the Koya neighbourhood of Qala, a KDPI official said. The Qala area includes the party’s politburo.

On Saturday and Monday, IRGC forces unleashed a wave of drone and artillery attacks targeting Kurdish positions.

Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem, reporting from Baghdad, said the death toll from the bombings is likely to rise. “At the moment, there is no official statement from the Iraqi government. It’s been five days now since the shelling started,” he added.

On Wednesday, Washington condemned the Iranian attacks, calling them an “assault on the sovereignty of Iraq and its people”.

“Iran cannot deflect blame from its internal problems and the legitimate grievances of its population with attacks across its borders,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

The attacks come amid tensions generated by the death in Iranian morality police custody of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini earlier this month after she was arrested in Tehran for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict rules on hijab and modest clothing.

Protests have swept Iran, and in particular Kurdistan province, where Amini was originally from, prompting a domestic crackdown that has killed at least 76 people, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has put the protest toll at “around 60”, inclusive of several members of the Iranian security forces.

Iran has accused Kurdish separatists of smuggling weapons into Iran.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies