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Iran fires missiles at Erbil US consulate; Tehran: ‘Secret Israeli bases’ targeted

Several missiles fired toward building in Iraqi Kurdistan; local TV station damaged; Iran media claims without evidence that Israel operating sites there and they were targets

A picture taken on March 13, 2022, shows a view of the damaged studio at the Kurdistan 24 TV building, after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region (SAFIN HAMED / AFP)
A picture taken on March 13, 2022, shows a view of the damaged studio at the Kurdistan 24 TV building, after an overnight attack in Erbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region (SAFIN HAMED / AFP)

As many as 12 missiles were fired Sunday toward the US consulate in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil, with several missiles hitting the building, Iraqi and US security officials said.

Iranian state media agency IRNA, citing local reports, claimed without evidence that “secret Israeli bases” were targeted in the attack.

An unnamed Iraqi official said the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran, without elaborating. He said the projectiles were the Iranian-made Fateh-110, likely fired in retaliation for the two Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria last week in an alleged Israeli strike.

A US official also said the missiles were launched from neighboring Iran.

Iraqi security officials said there were no immediate reports of casualties from the attack.

A US official initially said missiles hit the consulate, but a second American official later said there was no damage and no casualties at any US government facility.

Lawk Ghafari, the head of Kurdistan’s foreign media office, said none of the missiles hit the US facility but that areas around the new and currently unoccupied compound had been hit by the missiles.

The area’s governor said it was not clear whether the intended target was the US consulate or the airport, where there is a base for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State terror group.

The airport said it had suffered no damage and flights had not been disrupted.

Residents in the city heard three explosions.

Local television channel Kurdistan24, whose studios are not far from the US consulate, posted images on social networks of its damaged offices, with collapsed sections of false ceiling and broken glass.

Erbil is the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.

“We condemn this terrorist attack launched against several sectors of Erbil, we call on the inhabitants to remain calm,” Kurdistan Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said in a statement.

A US official said in a statement that the US condemned what it called an “outrageous attack against Iraqi sovereignty and display of violence.”

US forces stationed at Erbil’s airport compound have come under fire from rocket and drone attacks in the past, with US officials blaming Iran-backed groups.

The top US commander for the Middle East has repeatedly warned about the increasing threats of attacks from Iran and Iranian-backed militias on troops and allies in Iraq and Syria.

The attack comes several days after Syrian state media reported a strike it blamed on Israel near Damascus, Syria. The reports said the airstrike killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iran’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the attack and vowed revenge.

On Sunday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iraqi media acknowledging the attacks in Erbil, without saying where they originated.

An Iranian spokesperson rejected the accusation that Iran was behind the Erbil attack. Mahmoud Abbaszadeh, spokesman for Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, said the allegation could not be confirmed so far.

“If Iran decides to take revenge … it will be very, very serious, strong, obvious,” he said in an interview with a local news website.

The attack comes as negotiations in Vienna over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal hit a “pause” over Russian demands about sanctions targeting Moscow over its war on Ukraine.

US interests and coalition troops in Iraq have regularly been targeted in rocket and armed drone attacks.

Western officials have blamed hardline pro-Iran factions for the attacks, which have never been claimed.

In late January, six rockets were fired at Baghdad International Airport, causing no casualties.

Iraq saw a surge in these sort of attacks at the beginning of the year as Iran and its allies commemorated the second anniversary of the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant Abu Mehdi al-Mouhandis, killed by American drone fire in Iraq in January 2020.

The Biden administration decided last July to end the US combat mission in Iraq by Dec. 31, and US forces gradually moved to an advisory role last year. The troops will still provide air support and other military aid for Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State.

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