Amid protests, Iran’s Guard strikes Kurdish groups in Iraq
IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard on Monday unleashed a wave of drone and artillery strikes targeting what Tehran says are bases of Iranian Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, a semiofficial news agency reported.
It was the second 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.
A representative of one of the separatist groups in Iraq targeted in the attack — which struck the Sidikan area in the northern Kurdish-run region — said there were no casualties.
“Today three times, the Islamic Republic (of Iran) bombed the Halgurd Mountain side where our forces are based,” said Atta Nasir, a member of the central committee for Komala, a Kurdish opposition party that is exiled from Iran. He spoke to The Associated Press from the party’s headquarters near the Iran-Iraq border.
Each attack lasted two to three hours, he said, with artillery fire and Katyusha rockets. “Thankfully we don’t have any human losses until now,” he said.
On Saturday, the Guard said it targeted bases and training camps of Kurdish separatist groups in northern Iraq, claiming it inflicted serious damage.
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. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 13 dead, with more than 1,400 demonstrators arrested.
Col. Ali Mirahmadi, deputy chief of police in Semnan province, said 155 protesters have been arrested since the crisis began, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported Monday. It said the detained people were rioters or active on social media.
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.
Responding to the Iranian claims, Nasir said: “We ... have shown our full support for the people’s demands. We supported these protests and will continue supporting them in every possible way.”
He said Komala’s members did not participate directly in the protests but showed support through the participation of their followers and relatives in Iran.
Last year, the Guard similarly attacked what it called bases of “terrorist groups” in northern Iraq.
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 yearslong war against the extremist Islamic State group.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it summoned Iran’s ambassador following the protests and especially regarding the brutal actions of police there. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for new sanctions against Iran following the violent crackdown.
“We will now have to talk very quickly in the EU about further consequences, which for me also includes sanctions against those responsible,” she told German news agency dpa in Berlin.
“The attempt to now suppress peaceful protests with even more deadly force must not go unanswered,” she added.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, said it documented the arrests of at least 20 journalists as the clashes between security forces and protesters heated up.
CPJ in a Monday statement called on Iranian authorities to end its crackdown on journalists and release all arrested since the start of anti-government protests last week.
“Iranian authorities should be ashamed of themselves for orchestrating this brutal crackdown, said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour.
Associated Press writer Samya Kullab in Baghdad contributed.