BAGHDAD – About 12 rockets were fired at a large U.S. consulate in Erbil, northern Iraq, on Sunday, according to a U.S. defense official and an Iraqi official, from neighboring Iran.

There were no casualties in the attack, marking a significant escalation between the United States and Iran. Hostility between longtime enemies has often arisen in Iraq, whose government is an ally of both countries.

An Iraqi official in Baghdad initially said several missiles hit the U.S. consulate in Erbil and that it was the target of the attack. Later, Lovek Gafari, head of Kurdistan’s foreign media office, said none of the missiles hit a U.S. facility, but affected areas around the complex.

A U.S. defense spokesman said it was not yet known exactly how many missiles had been fired and where they had fallen. A second U.S. official said no U.S. government facility was damaged and that there were no indications that the facility was a consulate building that is new and not yet occupied.

Neither the Iraqi official nor the US officials were authorized to discuss the event with the media and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The satellite channel Kurdistan24, located near the U.S. consulate, aired from their studio shortly after the attack, showing broken glass and debris on the studio floor.

The attack came days after Iran said it would avenge an Israeli strike near Damascus, Syria, which killed two members of its Revolutionary Guard. On Sunday, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted Iraqi media outlets as acknowledging the attacks in Erbil, without saying where they started.

An Iranian spokesman has denied accusations that Iran is behind the attack in Erbil. Mahmoud Abbasade, a spokesman for Iran’s parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, said the statement could not be confirmed yet.

“If Iran decides to take revenge … it will be very, very serious, strong, obvious,” he said in an interview with a local news site.

The missile barrage coincided with regional tensions. Negotiations in Vienna on Tehran’s torn nuclear deal have stalled over Russia’s demands for sanctions against Moscow over its war against Ukraine. Iran, meanwhile, has suspended its secret Baghdad-mediated talks aimed at defusing years of tension with Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, after Saudi Arabia carried out the largest mass shooting in its modern history, killing more than 30 people.

Iraqi security officials said that the victims of the attack in Erbil, which took place after midnight, caused material damage in the area, no. They spoke on condition of anonymity according to the rules.

One Iraqi official said the ballistic missiles were fired from Iran without elaborating. He said it was Iranian-made Fateh-110 shells that were probably released in retaliation for two Revolutionary Guards executioners killed in Syria.

Another U.S. official said in a statement that the United States condemned what it called a “blatant attack on Iraqi sovereignty and a demonstration of violence.”

U.S. forces stationed at Erbil Airport have been shelled by missiles and drones in the past, and U.S. officials have blamed groups backed by Iran.

The U.S. commander-in-chief in the Middle East has repeatedly warned of growing threats of attacks by Iran and Iranian-backed militias on troops and allies in Iraq and Syria.

In an interview with the Associated Press in December, Marine Corps General Frank Mackenzie said that when U.S. forces in Iraq switched to a non-combat role, Iran and its proxies still want all U.S. troops to leave the country. As a result, he said, it could trigger more attacks. “

Last July, the Biden administration decided to complete the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by December 31, and last year U.S. forces gradually moved to a consultative role. Troops will continue to provide air support and other military assistance to Iraq’s fight against Islamic State.

The U.S. presence in Iraq has long been a hotbed for Tehran, but tensions have risen after a U.S. drone near Baghdad airport killed a high-ranking Iranian general in January 2020. In retaliation, Iran launched a barrage of missiles at al-Assad air base, where US troops were stationed. As a result of the explosions, more than 100 servicemen received craniocerebral injuries.

More recently, Iranian proxies have been held responsible for the assassination attempt on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Qadimi late last year.

Officials say they believe Iran was behind the October drone attack on a military outpost in southern Syria where US troops are based. No American personnel were killed or injured in the attack.

Al-Qadimi wrote on Twitter: “The aggression, which is aimed at the expensive city of Erbil and instilled fear among its inhabitants, is an attack on the security of our people.”

Masrur Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdish-controlled semi-autonomous region, condemned the attack. In a Facebook post, he said Erbil “will not bow to cowards who committed the terrorist attack.”

Copyright © 2022, Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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