The group said Iranian surface-to-surface missiles and drones hit its bases and neighboring refugee camps in Koya and Jejnikan. The group also claimed that the strikes hit a hospital in Koya.
The Iranian strikes follow a visit to Baghdad last week by Iranian Quds Force commander Esmail Ghaani. During the visit, Ghaani threatened Iraq with a military ground operation in the north of the country if the Iraqi army does not reinforce the countries’ shared border against Kurdish opposition groups, Iraqi and Kurdish officials said.
Some Kurdish groups have been embroiled in a low-intensity conflict with Tehran since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, with many members seeking political exile in neighboring Iraq, where they have established bases.
Iran claims that these groups incite anti-government protests in Iran and smuggle weapons into the country, which Kurdish groups have denied. Iran has provided no evidence to support the claims.
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani told reporters that Iran had acted to “protect its borders and security of its citizens on the basis of its legal rights.” He claimed that the government in Baghdad and the Erbil-based government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq had failed to fulfill alleged commitments to prevent threats against Iran from Iraqi areas.
Kanaani said Iranian and Iraqi officials had been discussing the issue in Tehran and Baghdad for the past month. He said Iran had demanded that Iraqi Kurdistan not be a “weapons export location” to Iran by Iraq-based “separatist” groups.
“Unfortunately, Iran’s expectations have not been met so far,” Kananni said.
The government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq condemned the strikes as a “gross violation of international law and relations with neighboring countries”.
Qaderi told The Associated Press that Kurdish opposition groups in Iraq are supporting the protests in Iran, which he described as a response to “the policies of this regime,” which he says oppresses its people. He denied that his group has sent fighters or weapons to Iran.
He said his group moved troops away from the border so as not to give Iran an “excuse” for further attacks. He called on the international community to prevent further aggression by Iran.
Iran has in the past regularly carried out airstrikes against the bases of the Kurdish groups in Iraq.
The US condemned the latest Iranian attacks. General Michael E. Kurilla, head of the US Central Command, said in a statement: “Such indiscriminate and illegal attacks endanger civilians, violate Iraqi sovereignty and jeopardize the hard-won security and stability of Iraq and the Middle East. .”
Sunday’s Iranian attacks in northern Iraq come a day after Turkey launched deadly airstrikes over the northern regions of Syria and Iraq targeting Kurdish groups Ankara blames for last week’s Istanbul bombing.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Al Khor, Qatar contributed to this report.