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Iran: Deadly bombing of Iranian Kurdish opposition inside Iraq sparks outrage

Iranian Kurdish parties accuse Tehran of escalating its bombing campaign to distract from the unrest in Iran following Mahsa Amini's death

An injured member of the Iranian Kurdish nationalist group Komala, is treated by a doctor in the village of Zrgoiz, 15 kms outside the Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah, on 28 September 2022 (AFP)
By Wladimir van Wilgenburg in Erbil, Iraq

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Wednesday bombed Iranian-Kurdish targets inside Iraq's Kurdistan region with missiles and drones, killing at least nine people.

The IRGC has been bombing Kurdish parties based on the border of the Kurdistan region in recent days, but this morning's escalation marked the first time this month that Iran has targeted them inside northern Iraq.

Lawk Ghafuri, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government foreign media affairs, said that nine people, including civilians, were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attacks.

A source in the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) told Middle East Eye that a 59-year-old US citizen, Omar Mahmoudzadeh, was among those killed. The source said Mahmoudzadeh was helping refugees in camps near the KDP-I headquarters in Erbil province.

The Kurdistan Region Ministry of Health said it expected the number of casualties to rise.

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Iraq's foreign ministry said it will summon the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad over the deadly strikes against the Kurdish region and deliver a letter of protest "in a very harsh tone".

The attacks come amidst continued protests in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police in Tehran in mid-September, in which nearly 80 protesters were killed and hundreds were injured.

Iran has blamed armed Iranian Kurdish dissidents for involvement in the ongoing unrest, particularly in the northwest where most of the country's more than 10 million Kurds live.

“To divert attention from the ongoing protests in Kurdistan and Iran, the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (#IRGC) are right now attacking the headquarters of our party and adjacent refugee camps in Koya,” the KDP-I said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“We call on the international community not to remain silent.” 

Jila Mostajer, a board of directors member at the Norway-based Kurdish human rights watchdog Hengaw, told MEE that Iran attacked the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan in Sulaymaniyah province, the KDP-I headquarters in Koya in Erbil province, and the headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) near Pirde, south of Erbil.

Mostajer told MEE that two KDP-I members were killed and 15 were wounded in the attack on Koya. There were also reports that people were rushing to the hospitals to donate blood to the wounded.

“Since five days ago, Iran bombed border regions in the Kurdistan Region. But this morning they bombed the parties inside the Kurdistan region,” she said. “So far, two people have been killed during the attack on the KDP-I headquarters in Koya.”

Mostajer added that 15 students were also wounded in the bombing of Koya.

The KRG strongly condemned "the repetitive violations of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan Region".

"Attacks on opposition groups through the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missiles, under any pretext, is an incorrect stance which promotes a misleading interpretation of the course of events."

'Violation of sovereignty'

Tasnim News Agency, a semi-official outlet close to Iran’s IRGC, confirmed on Wednesday that Iran had used missiles and drones against Iran’s Kurdish opposition groups, calling them "separatists".

It said the IRGC ground forces started a series of military operations against them on 24 September, claiming these groups have tried to “create chaos and insecurity in the border cities of the country".

Kako Alyar, Komala's head of the central committee secretariat, told MEE that the party was, for the first time, “attacked by 12 drones. Fortunately, there were no martyrs (deaths) so far, and no injuries.”

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“In 2015, and 2017, the Islamic Republic planted bombs at our headquarters, but we found them, dismantled them and there were no casualties. But this is the first time [the headquarters] has been attacked by drones.

“We are definitely not separatist, we are demanding a federal democratic Iran,” Alyar added in response to Iranian government claims.

“The protests in Iran erupted for many reasons: bad economy, bad leadership, oppression against women, minorities and Kurds. They have an ideology that is not worthy of the Iranian people and this regime doesn’t belong to the 21st century.”

Mostajer also told MEE they have “confirmed sources that five PAK members were killed” in the drone and missile attacks on their headquarters in Pirde. Khalil Nadri, a spokesperson for PAK, said 20 people were wounded.

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