Iran on Wednesday launched attacks into Iraq amid mass anti-regime protests at home. Photo by EPA
Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Iran on Wednesday launched a barrage of drone and missile strikes targeting an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in Iraq, U.S. and Kurdish officials said.
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, commander of Iran's elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said Wednesday's attack included 73 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and dozens of drones targeting 42 sites, some separated by as much as 250 miles, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, an independent human rights organization in Kurdistan, said the strikes killed at least 12 people and injured dozens more.
The attack comes amid mass anti-regime protests at home, which Iranian officials say are being inflamed by the Kurdish opposition.
The U.S. Central Command said it shot down an Iranian drone headed toward its forces in the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil at about 2:10 p.m. local time.
"U.S. Central Command condemns the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' unprovoked attack in Iraq's Erbil Governorate this morning," it said in a statement. "Such indiscriminate attacks threaten innocent civilians and risk the hard-fought stability of the region."
There were no U.S. casualties, U.S. Central Command said.
U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan also issued a strong condemnation of the attacks, stating Tehran cannot continue to deflect blame from its internal problems and "legitimate grievances of its population" by attacking its neighbor.
"Iranian leaders continue to demonstrate flagrant disregard not only for the lives of their own people, but also for their neighbors and the core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the U.N. Charter," he said in a statement.
"The United States will continue to pursue sanctions and other means to disrupt Iran's destabilizing activities across the Middle East region."
The Kurdistan Regional Government also issued a statement condemning the attacks while calling for Iran to cease its provocations.
"Attacks on opposition groups through the Islamic Republic of Iran's missiles, under and pretext is an incorrect stance, which promotes a misleading interpretation of the course of events," it said. "We strongly condemn these continuous attacks."
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate de-escalation while urging Iran to respect the sovereignty of Iraq, the U.N. head's spokesman Stephan Dujarric said.
The attacks were launched as Iran confronts mass anti-regime protests that began following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16.
Amini, who was a Kurdish minority, was arrested in Tehran by the country's Guidance Patrol on Sept. 13 on accusations of violating the country's strict laws concerning the wearing of hijab. Shortly after her arrest, Amini fell into a coma.
The Guidance Patrol have been accused of beating Amini, accusations that the authorities reject.
The protests have spread countrywide and have been met by a violent crackdown by authorities, resulting in the deaths of at least 76 people, including six women and four children, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights organization.
The attacks on Wednesday come after Iran launched a similar offensive targeting those they view as terrorists in Iraq on Monday.
Iranian officials have blamed the Kurdish opposition for being involved in the destabilizing protests.