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U.S. national, mom and infant among those killed as Iran rains missiles down on Kurds in northern Iraq

Kurdish fighters walk to inspect the damage following an Iranian cross-border attack in the area of Zargwez, where several exiled left-wing Iranian Kurdish parties maintain offices, near the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyeh, September 28, 2022. AFP via Getty

An American citizen, a mother and her 1-day-old infant are among the 14 people who were killed this week by a barrage of Iranian missiles fired at Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq. Iran's Revolutionary Guards (ICRG) targeted Kurdish opposition groups in northern Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region with dozens of missiles and explosives-laden drone aircraft. 

In a statement carried by Iranian state TV, the ICRG, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, said its "operation will continue with our full determination until the threat is effectively repelled, terrorist group bases are dismantled, and the authorities of the Kurdish region assume their obligations and responsibilities."

Local security sources in Iraqi Kurdistan told CBS News that at least 70 ballistic missiles and dozens of drones were used in the attacks that targeted four locations in the region — one of them only about 30 miles from a U.S.-led coalition military base.

The U.S. military's Central Command said Wednesday that it "condemns the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' unprovoked attack in Iraq's Erbil Governorate," in a statement attributed to spokesperson Joe Buccino. "Such indiscriminate attacks threaten innocent civilians and risk the hard-fought stability of the region."

A wounded man is transported to a hospital following an attack on the village of Altun Kupri, south of the regional capital of Erbil in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, September 28, 2022. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty

CENTCOM said no U.S. forces were wounded in the Iranian strikes, but added that American forces had "brought down an Iranian Mojer-6 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle headed in the direction of Erbil as it appeared as a threat to CENTCOM forces in the area."

U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed Thursday that a U.S. citizen was killed in the barrage of rocket fire, but he declined to provide any further detail, citing privacy concerns.

A statement by an umbrella organization of Kurdish Iranian opposition groups in the region described the attacks as an attempt by Tehran to divert attention from the dramatic upheaval in Iran over the death of a woman in the custody of its "morality police."

Protests against Iranian government spread 05:53

Almost two weeks of protests across the country have left at least 83 people dead, according to an outside human rights group. It is the most intense unrest Iran has seen in years, and Iran's leaders have blamed outside groups for stoking the chaos.

The opposition groups in Iraq urged Iranians to join the protests on Saturday.

The Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the main exiled opposition groups based in the northern Iraqi city of Koya, dismissed the ICRG's claims to have targeted only military bases and opposition group offices.

Among those killed by the bombing was Rehana Kanaani, who was nine months pregnant with her first child at the time of the attack. Kanaani died in a local hospital earlier this week, but doctors initially managed to save the son she'd been carrying.

"His mother wanted to name him Wanyar since she was five months pregnant," the father, Zanyar Rahmani, told the Kurdish television outlet Rudaw TV. Doctors told him from the outset that his child's chances of survival were low. The infant died Thursday, a day after his mother.

The United Nations, U.S., Britain and many other countries condemned the attack as a violation of Iraq's sovereignty.a

"With the attacks, the Iranians are trying to say that the protests are instigated by outside forces," Iraqi political analyst Hiwa Osman told CBS News. "But in reality, the protests are a natural reaction to the Iranian government's repression."

Osman said the attack was a clear message to the Iranian Kurds in Iraq, "that we can harm you, and America cannot protect you." 

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