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. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran's armed forces, said on Wednesday that 73 ballistic missiles had been fired at Kurdish opposition groups based in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.
Iraq will summon the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad to hand over a note of protest over the incident, Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Al Sahaf said.
The strikes focused on Koya, about 60 kilometres east of Erbil, said Soran Nuri, a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. The group, known by the acronym KDPI, is a leftist armed opposition force banned in Iran.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned Iran’s latest attacks as an “unjustified violation” of Iraqi sovereignty.“ We are also aware of reports of civilian casualties and deplore any loss of life caused by today’s attack,” Mr Price said. “Moreover, we further condemn comments from the government of Iran threatening additional attacks against Iraq.”
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and broadcaster said the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ground forces attacked some bases of a separatist group in the north of Iraq with precision missiles and suicide drones.
The regional health ministry said 32 civilians were wounded.
The strikes hit a military camp, homes, offices and other areas around Koya, Mr Nuri said. He said the attack was continuing.
Associated Press reported ambulances racing through Koya after the attack. Smoke rose from one site as security forces closed the area off.
By early afternoon, shelling renewed with six missiles in the area of Koysinjaq outside Erbil.
Iraq's Foreign Ministry condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms”, saying it was a “dangerous development that threatens Iraq's security and sovereignty”.
Iran sent 20 explosives-laden drones to four areas in the Kurdistan Region, the statement said.
The Kurdistan Regional Government said the “attacks on opposition groups through the Islamic Republic of Iran’s missiles, under any pretext, are an incorrect stance which promotes a misleading interpretation of the course of events”.
The parliamentary group affiliated to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the region's two main political parties, called the attack a “dangerous precedence that affects the security, stability and sovereignty of Iraq and Kurdistan”.
“At the same time, we stress that it is not allowed to use Iraqi and Kurdistan territories to threaten the security of neighbouring countries,” it said.
The UN mission to Iraq said the country "rejects the notion that it can be treated as the region’s 'backyard' where neighbours routinely, and with impunity, violate its sovereignty".
It added that "rocket diplomacy is a reckless act with devastating consequences. These attacks need to cease immediately".
On Saturday and Monday, the IRGC sent a wave of drone and artillery strikes against Kurdish positions.
Wednesday's attack came hours before MPs were set to meet in Baghdad to address a political impasse that has prevented the formation of a government since elections in October
They are scheduled to vote on the resignation of Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi and elect a deputy speaker.
The strikes appeared to be a response to the protests in Iran against the death of a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the nation’s morality police.
Protests have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran, including Tehran.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Iran on Wednesday to refrain from using unnecessary or disproportionate force against protesters.
Mr Guterres added through a spokesman that authorities should swiftly conduct an impartial investigation into Amini's death.
“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising fatalities, including women and children, related to the protests,” Stephane Dujarric said.
“We underline the need for a prompt, impartial and effective investigation into Ms Mahsa Amini’s death by an independent, competent authority.”
Fars news agency said on Tuesday that about 60 people had been killed since Amini's death on September 16, up from an official toll of 41 authorities on Saturday.
Officials said on Monday they had made more than 1,200 arrests, including activists, lawyers and journalists.
Iran's police command on Wednesday said the force would respond “with all their might”.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, said it had documented the arrests of at least 23 journalists as the clashes between security forces and protesters continued.
On Wednesday, it called on Iranian authorities to immediately release arrested journalists who covered Amini’s death and protests.
Mr Dujarric added that Mr Guterres had stressed the need to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association during a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on September 22.