A dozen ballistic missiles hit Iraq’s Kurdish capital: Officials

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A dozen ballistic missiles launched from outside Iraq have struck the country’s northern Kurdish regional capital Erbil, Kurdish officials say, adding there are no casualties.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility or further details available.

Erbil Governor Omed Khoshnaw earlier told Erbil-based broadcaster Rudaw that there was a terror attack against the US Consulate.

A US State Department spokesperson on Sunday called it an “outrageous attack” but said no Americans were hurt and there was no damage to US government facilities in Erbil.

Iraqi state TV quoted the semi-autonomous Kurdish region’s counterterrorism force as saying 12 missiles launched from outside Iraq hit Erbil. It was not immediately clear where they landed.

An Iranian state TV correspondent said the missiles were aimed at “secret Israeli bases” but did not give further information.

Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) condemned the attack.

In a post on KRG’s official Twitter account, Barzani said: “Erbil will not bow down to cowards. I strongly condemn the terrorist attack on several places in Erbil.”

The US forces stationed at Erbil’s international airport complex have in the past come under fire from rocket and drone attacks that US officials blame on Iran-aligned armed groups, but no such attacks have occurred for several months.

The last time ballistic missiles were directed at US forces was in January 2020 – an Iranian retaliation for the US killing earlier that month of its military commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport.

No US personnel were killed in the 2020 attack but many suffered head injuries.

“So far there is no official confirmation about these 12 missiles being fired from Iran but what we’re hearing from officials is that an investigation has been ordered to try to figure out where these missiles came from and what was the motive,” Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid said, speaking from Baghdad.

He added that the missiles come at a “critical junction” of Iran’s relations with the world, where Vienna talks about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal have been suspended.

Map of Iraq showing the location of Erbil.
[Al Jazeera]
Large explosions
Iraq and neighbouring Syria are regularly the scenes of violence between the US and Iran. Iran-backed Shia groups have attacked US forces in both countries, and Washington has on occasion retaliated with air raids.

An Israeli air attack in Syria on Monday killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iranian state media said this week. The IRGC promised to retaliate, it said.

Kurdish officials did not immediately say where the missiles struck. A spokesperson for the regional authorities said there were no flight interruptions at Erbil airport.

Residents of Erbil posted videos online showing several large explosions, and some said the blasts shook their homes. The Reuters news agency said it could not independently verify those videos.

Iraq has been rocked by chronic instability since the defeat of the ISIL (ISIS) group in 2017 by a loose coalition of Iraqi, US-led and Iran-backed forces.

Since then, Iran-aligned groups have regularly attacked US military and diplomatic sites in Iraq, US and Iraqi officials say. Iran has denied involvement in those attacks.

Domestic politics has also fuelled violence.

Iraqi political parties, most of which have armed wings, are currently in tense talks about forming a government after an election last October.

The powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has vowed to form a government that leaves out Iran’s allies and includes Kurds and Sunnis.