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regular-article-logo Saturday, 25 May 2024

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launches missile attack on 'terrorist groups' in Iraq, Syria

The strike in the city of Erbil killed at least four civilians, according to the Kurdistan Regional Security Council in Iraq, and air traffic was diverted briefly, officials said

Alissa J. Rubin Baghdad Published 17.01.24, 09:45 AM
Syrians look at an abandoned medical facility in the village of Talteta, Syria, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, that was hit by Iranian missiles late Monday night, according to a voluntary rescue group White Helmets.

Syrians look at an abandoned medical facility in the village of Talteta, Syria, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, that was hit by Iranian missiles late Monday night, according to a voluntary rescue group White Helmets. AP/PTI

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard launched a missile attack against what they called “anti-Iranian terrorist groups” in a northern Iraqi city, setting off large explosions and sirens, including at the US Consulate, around midnight on Tuesday.

The strike in the city of Erbil killed at least four civilians, according to the Kurdistan Regional Security Council in Iraq, and air traffic was diverted briefly, officials said.

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A separate ballistic missile attack hit targets in Syria connected to the Islamic State group, the Guard said.

A statement by the elite Revolutionary Guard said the missile strike in Irbil had been aimed at “the destruction of espionage headquarters and places that anti-Iranian terrorist groups” used to plan a suicide bombing attack in Kerman, Iran, that killed 86 people this month at a memorial procession for General Qassem Soleimani. The Guard also cited an assault in December on a police headquarters in Rask, Iran, that killed at least 11 officers.

Some Iranian leaders initially appeared to blame Israel for the attack at the Soleimani memorial, though the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for it. In a statement later on Tuesday, the Revolutionary Guard appeared to return to the narrative that blamed Israel, saying the target in Irbil had been the local headquarters for Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. Israel did not immediately respond.

The attacks at the memorial and at the police station were seen as signs of Iran’s vulnerability to infiltration by extremist groups despite its formidable intelligence service and police capabilities.

Direct attacks by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, while not new, have been far less frequent than those conducted by Iran’s proxies.

Those militant groups have launched at least 130 assaults on US installations in Iraq and Syria since the war in the Gaza Strip began in October, after Hamas led an attack in southern Israel that, Israeli officials say, killed 1,200 people. Israel retaliated by bombarding the strip, killing more than 23,000 people and displacing millions, according to Gaza health officials.

Several of the explosions early Tuesday occurred near where a new US Consulate in Irbil is under construction, and several other explosions happened near the Irbil airport. A US official said: “No US facilities were impacted. We’re not tracking damage to infrastructure or injuries at this time.”

The US state department said: “The United States strongly condemns Iran’s attacks in Irbil today and offers condolences to the families of those who were killed. We oppose Iran’s reckless missile strikes, which undermine Iraq’s stability.”

Irbil is the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq and is its most populous city. The Kurdish region’s security council called on the international community to condemn the Iranian attack, which it described as “a blatant violation of the sovereignty of the Kurdistan region and Iraq and the federal government.”

In a statement, the council said that “Irbil is a stable region and has never been a threat to any party,” adding: “The Revolutionary Guard said that the attack targeted several sites of Iranian opposition groups. Unfortunately, they always use baseless excuses to attack Irbil.”

New York Times News Service

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