Dozen ballistic missiles hit Erbil, northern Iraq, US consulate 'targeted'

Dozen ballistic missiles hit Erbil, northern Iraq, US consulate 'targeted'
Multiple rockets hit Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, on Sunday. No casualties have been reported.
3 min read
Erbil is the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region [source: Getty]

As many as a dozen ballistic missiles launched from outside Iraq struck the country's northern Kurdish regional capital Erbil on Sunday, Kurdish officials said. 

"Twelve ballistic missiles" fired on Sunday targeted Erbil, and the US consulate there, they said.

"The missiles were fired outside the borders of Iraq and Kurdistan, (coming) more precisely from the east," a press release from the Kurdistan counter-terrorism unit stated.

The attack caused some material damage but no casualties, it added.

One Iraqi official told reporters on Sunday that the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran, without elaborating.

The attack came several days after an Israeli strike near Damascus Syria killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Iran's foreign ministry strongly condemned the attack on Wednesday and vowed revenge.

In response to Erbil's attack, Masrour Barzani, the Prime Minister of Kurdistan Region, tweeted: "Erbil will stand strong against cowardly attacks. I strongly condemn the terrorist attack on Erbil and call on its resilient people to keep calm and follow the guidance of the security services -mb." 

Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Iraqi PM,  also tweeted: "The aggression which targeted the dear city of Erbil and spread fear amongst its inhabitants is an attack on the security of our people. I discussed these developments with the KRG PM. Our security forces will investigate and stand firm against any threats towards our people."

Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said on Twitter: "Erbil is under fire... as if Kurds were not Iraqis". 

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iraqi media acknowledging the attacks, without saying where they originated.

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.

In the past, US forces stationed at Erbil's international airport complex have 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. 

Local television channel Kurdistan24, whose studios are not far from the US consulate, posted images on social networks of its damaged offices, with collapsed sections of false ceiling and broken glass.

The airport said it had suffered no damage and flights had not been disrupted.

Residents of Erbil posted videos online showing several large explosions, and some said the blasts shook their homes. These videos have not been independently verified. 

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 Iraqi officials say. Iran denies involvement in those attacks.

Domestic politics has also fuelled violence.

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