Tehran, Iran – Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has attacked positions in northern Iraq held by Kurdish groups, as anti-government protests continue in Iran’s Kurdish-majority western regions and elsewhere.
The ground division of the elite force confirmed Monday morning that it had attacked three areas in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq with missiles and drones, inflicting “severe damage” on two Kurdish groups that Tehran considers “terrorist” organizations.
The semi-official Tasnim website, which is close to the IRGC, quoted local sources as saying that 26 members of Komala and the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party were killed in the attacks.
The US Central Command condemned the cross-border attacks in a statement, saying they violated Iraqi sovereignty and “endangered the security and stability of Iraq and the Middle East for which they fought so hard.”
The IRGC has attacked positions it said the groups have occupied multiple times since the start of protests in Iran more than two months ago, as it says they smuggle weapons into the country and carry out operations to destabilize it.
The latest attack comes days after IRGC Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani traveled to Iraq for high-level meetings, and after repeated warnings from Tehran to Baghdad to disarm or relocate the groups.
Protests erupted across Iran in mid-September after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman from Saqqez in Iran’s Kurdistan province, who was arrested by the country’s morality police in Tehran for allegedly not adhere to the country’s dress code. for women.
In recent days, protests have been most intense in the Kurdish-majority northwestern provinces, with videos continuing to emerge from various cities, including Mahabad, Bukan and Piranshahr in West Azerbaijan and Javanrud in Kermanshah.
In Mahabad, several videos circulating online, which could not be independently verified, showed a convoy of heavy armored vehicles allegedly being deployed by Iranian authorities, while in some videos the sound of gunfire could be heard and others showed helicopters flying overhead.
The IRGC confirmed in a statement on Sunday that it is “strengthening” its forces in the northwestern regions of the country, in what it said is a response to the activities of “armed thugs and separatist terrorists.”
Foreign-based human rights organizations have reported that several people were shot dead by security forces in protests on Sunday night.
Iranian authorities have consistently denied that security forces use live bullets.
Authorities have not provided an official tally of the total number of people killed since the start of the protests, but have said more than 50 members of the security forces have been killed during “riots” and operations by foreign-backed “terrorists.”
Rights groups say more than 400 people have been killed, including some 60 children.
Tehran has accused foreign powers including France, Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain and the United States of being behind the unrest in the country.
It has also responded to sanctions from various Western governments with its own sanctions.
Footballer supports protests
With unrest in Iran continuing, the country’s national soccer team has come under international media scrutiny as it prepares to face England on Monday afternoon in the two’s first World Cup match. equipment.
Iran and England are in Group B, along with the United States and Wales.
During a press conference on Sunday, the captain of the Iranian team, Ehsan Hajsafi, seemed to implicitly express his support for the protests and expressed his condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones.
He also began his comments by saying “in the name of the God of rainbows”, referring to a phrase used in a video of Kian Pirfalak, a nine-year-old boy who was killed after being shot in the town of Izeh. , in Khuzestan province, last week.
Pirfalak’s mother blamed security forces during his funeral, but authorities said motorcycle-riding “terrorists” killed him and six others.
Karim Bagheri and Yahya Golmohammadi, two former national soccer team players and current backroom members of Iran’s top club Persepolis, were sanctioned on Sunday for posting in support of the protests on their social media accounts.
Bagheri was fined 20 percent of his salary, while Golmohammadi was fined 15 percent.
Two actresses, Katayoun Riahi and Hengameh Ghaziani, were also arrested on Sunday.
They had filmed themselves without covering their heads in support of the protests.
Iran on Sunday issued a sixth death sentence linked to the protests, saying the person sentenced had blocked a major street in Tehran, fought with Basij paramilitary forces using a weapon and “terrorized” civilians.