Reuters-By Amina Ismail
Workers clean the damaged office of Kurdistan 24 TV building, in the aftermath of missile attacks, in Erbil, Iraq, March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
ERBIL, Iraq, March 13 (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards claimed responsibility for a dozen ballistic missiles that struck Iraq’s northern Kurdish regional capital of Erbil in the early hours of Sunday, Iran’s state media reported, adding that the attack was against Israeli “strategic centres” in Erbil.
In another sign of increased regional tensions, Iran also suspended on Sunday a fifth round of talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia that were due to take place in Baghdad on Wednesday.
The last time ballistic missiles were directed at U.S. forces was in January 2020 – an Iranian retaliation for the U.S. killing earlier that month of its military commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport.
No U.S. personnel were killed in the 2020 attack but many suffered head injuries.
Iraq and neighbouring Syria are regularly the scene of violence between the United States and Iran. Iran-backed Shi’ite Islamist militias have attacked U.S. 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 last week. The IRGC vowed to retaliate, it said. Israel has not confirmed it carried out the strike.
Analysts say that Sunday’s attack was more of a retaliation against last week’s Israeli air strikes in Syria rather than an attack on the United States.
“Iran had carried out attacks against American targets and did not shy away from publicizing this,” said Hamidreza Azizi, Visiting Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
“I see this more as a warning sign to Israel and a show of force in the negotiations.”
A Kurdish 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, U.S.-led and Iran-backed forces.
Since then, Iran-aligned militias have regularly attacked U.S. military and diplomatic sites in Iraq, U.S. and many Iraqi officials say. Iran denies involvement in those attacks.
Reporting by Iraq Bureau and Dubai Bureau; Additional reporting by Yasmin Hussein and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Phil Stewart in Washington, Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Writing by Amina Ismail in Erbil and John Davison in Baghdad; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Louise Heavens and Susan Fenton
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