Ballistic missiles hit Iraq’s Kurdish capital, no casualties – officials

ERBIL, Iraq, March 13 (Reuters) – A dozen ballistic missiles launched from outside Iraq struck the country’s northern Kurdish regional capital Erbil on Sunday, Kurdish officials said, adding there were no casualties.

The attack was launched from Iran, a US official told Reuters. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not provide further information.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility or further details available. A US State Department spokesperson called it an “outrageous attack” but said no Americans were hurt and there was no damage to US government facilities in Erbil.

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

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 militia 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.

Iraq and neighboring Syria are regularly the scene of violence between the United States and Iran. Iran-backed Shi’ite Islamist militias have attacked US forces in both countries and Washington has on occasion retaliated with air strikes.

An Israeli air strike in Syria on Monday killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iranian state media said this week. The IRGC vowed 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. Reuters could not independently verify those videos.

Iraq has been rocked by chronic instability since the defeat of the Sunni Islamist group Islamic State in 2017 by a loose coalition of Iraqi, US-led and Iran-backed forces.

Since then, Iran-aligned militias have regularly attacked US military and diplomatic sites in Iraq, US and many Iraqi officials say. Iran denies involvement in those attacks.

Domestic politics has also fueled violence.

Iraqi political parties, most of which have armed wings, are currently in tense talks over forming a government after an election in October. Shi’ite militia groups close to Iran warn in private that they will resort to violence if they are left out of any ruling coalition.

The chief political foes of those groups include their powerful Shi’ite rival, the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has vowed to form a government that leaves out Iran’s allies and includes Kurds and Sunnis.

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Reporting by Iraq Bureau; Additional reporting by Yasmin Hussein and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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