The United States on Wednesday flew an F-15 jet to shoot down an Iranian drone that was flying toward U.S. forces in Erbil, Iraq, a U.S. official told CNN.
The plane was shot down by US forces after tracking dozens of Iranian short-range ballistic missiles headed for Kurdish positions in northern Iraq on Wednesday, two other US officials said. A preliminary assessment of the launch took place in Iran, officials said.
“It was a significant incident,” an official said.
“At around 2:10 p.m. local time, US forces shot down an Iranian Moser-6 unmanned aerial vehicle heading towards Erbil because it appeared to pose a threat to USCENTCOM forces in the area,” US Central Command, which monitors the US. military presence in the Middle East, a statement said.
Earlier on Wednesday, nine people, including civilians, were killed when Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted Kurdish separatist groups in northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government said. [KRG] Health Minister Saman Barzhanji told CNN.
The IRGC used missiles and drones to target offices of Kurdish groups designated by Iran as terrorist organizations, Iran’s state-aligned news agency Tasnim quoted the IRGC as saying.
The US Central Command condemned the “unprovoked attack” by the IRGC in Iraq.
“Such indiscriminate attacks put innocent lives at risk and threaten the hard stability in the region,” Col. Joe Buccino, a senior spokesman for US Central Command, said in a statement.
No US troops were injured or killed and no US equipment was damaged as a result of the IRGC strikes, US Central Command said.
Iran has targeted militants in Iraq’s Kurdish region in the past, but attacks have escalated since the weekend. Tehran is accusing Kurdish groups of destabilizing the country by supporting protesters who demonstrated against Iranian authorities after the death of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, the state-run Fars news agency said.
Both U.S. officials emphasized that, at this point, the Iranians are looking to harm Kurdish forces in order to potentially distract from the current protests in Iran. Protests continue in western Iran, home to many Kurds angered by Amini’s death.
Such a large number of ballistic missile launches raises concerns about Iran’s long-term intentions and potential escalation, officials said.