Amid National Upheaval, Iran Strikes Kurdish Groups in Northern Iraq

Iran launched armed drones and artillery aimed at what it claims are Kurdish separatist bases in Northern Iraq, accusing them of fueling domestic unrest. This comes as a rise in deaths from nationwide protests are being reported

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An Iranian drone, in front of a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, just outside Tehran, Iran, in 2013.
An Iranian drone, in front of a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, just outside Tehran, Iran, in 2013.Credit: Vahid Salemi / AP

Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Monday unleashed a wave of drone strikes and artillery, targeting what Tehran says are bases of Iranian Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.

It was the third such cross-border assault since Saturday, at a time when Iran is convulsing with protests over the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the nation’s morality police.

The Revolutionary Guards artillery fire on Kurdish militant opposition bases in neighboring Iraq began on Saturday, Iranian state television reported. "Headquarters of anti-Iranian terrorists" based in northern Iraq were targeted by the Guards, state TV said, in reference to Kurdish rebel groups based there.

Several Kurdish media outlets reported that Iranian artillery fire continued into its third day in a row in the mountainous border region of Sidakan, northeast of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil.

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

Iranian officials have often called on the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq to curb the activities of Iranian Kurdish groups in the area. They also say Israeli agents are based in the region, which is denied by KRG.

Iran has repeatedly targeted Kurdish rebel groups in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. There have been frequent clashes in the remote and mountainous border region between Iranian security forces and militant groups opposed to the Tehran government.

In Monday's report, the semiofficial Tasnim news agency said the Guard’s attacks were in response to the support that the separatists have allegedly provided for the unrest inside Iran, as well as their attempts to smuggle in weapons.

There was no immediate comment from the Iraqi government. The two neighboring countries have close political and military ties, and Tehran had provided extensive military support for Baghdad, during its years-long war against the extremist Islamic State group.

Protests over the death of Mahsa Amini have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages. Iranian state TV has suggested that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began Sept. 17.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on Saturday that at least 54 protesters had been killed. In many cases, handing over the bodies of victims to their families was made contingent on agreeing to secret burials, IHR reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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