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Iran launches fresh strikes on Kurdish groups in Iraq

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 21/11/2022 Agence France-Presse
AUTONOMOUS AREA A general view of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, on Nov. 5, 2022. AFP PHOTO © Provided by The Manila Times AUTONOMOUS AREA A general view of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, on Nov. 5, 2022. AFP PHOTO

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: Iran launched new cross-border missile and drone strikes overnight to Monday against Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq, killing at least one fighter from the groups it accuses of stoking a wave of protests.

The Islamic republic has been shaken by over two months of demonstrations sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini after its morality police arrested her for allegedly breaching the strict dress code for women.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has repeatedly struck the Kurdish dissident groups based in Iraq's mountainous north, whom it labels "separatist anti-Iranian terrorist groups."

The Guards charged the Kurdish groups are being supported by "the global arrogance" — code for its archfoe, United States, and its allies — and said it had targeted their "headquarters and conspiracy centers."

The IRGC said it had hit the Kurdish camps of Jejnikan and Zarguiz and the town of Koysinjaq, adding that "the terrorists were struck and suffered heavy casualties."

In northern Iraq, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) said Iran had targeted it with missiles and suicide drones in Koya and Jejnikan, near Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Party official Ali Boudaghi told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that "a member of the peshmerga was killed in an Iranian strike" in the area of Koya.

"These indiscriminate attacks are occurring at a time when the terrorist regime of Iran is unable to stop the ongoing demonstrations in (Iranian) Kurdistan," said the PDKI, the oldest Kurdish party in Iran.

The Iranian Kurdish nationalist group Komala said it was also targeted.

"Our HQ was once again attacked by the Islamic Regime tonight," it said on Twitter. "We've been carefully prepared for these types of attacks and have no losses for the moment."

The government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region condemned the strikes in a statement: "The repeated violations that undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the Kurdistan region are unjustifiable."

In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani stressed that the Islamic republic "desires that there be no threat to Iran's security from Iraqi territory."

The US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, condemned the "illegal" Iranian strikes near Erbil.

"Such indiscriminate and illegal attacks place civilians at risk, violate Iraqi sovereignty, and jeopardize the hard-fought security and stability of Iraq and the Middle East," Centcom Commander Gen. Michael Kurilla said in a statement.

State-run Iraqi News Agency earning on Monday also reported on the attacks, referring to "Iranian missile and drone strikes" against "three Iranian opposition parties in (Iraqi) Kurdistan."

The new Iranian strikes come less than a week after similar cross-border attacks by Tehran that killed at least one person, and following attacks in late September that killed more than a dozen people.

Tehran accuses the Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups based in northern Iraq of stoking the wave of "riots" at home, where women-led protests have flared nationwide over Amini's death.

Iraqi Kurdistan hosts several Iranian Kurdish opposition groups that have in the past waged an armed insurrection against Tehran.

Their activities have declined in recent years, but the wave of protests in Iran has again stoked tensions.

Hamzeh Hadad, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, described the latest Iranian strikes as a "failure" of both the Iraqi federal and Kurdish governments.

"Whatever the intention of Tehran is for targeting Iraqi Kurdistan, it is a failure of both Baghdad and Erbil for allowing their territory to be vulnerable to foreign attacks," Hadad tweeted.

The latest Iranian attacks also come a day after Turkey carried out air raids against outlawed Kurdish militants in Iraqi Kurdistan and northern Syria.

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