As many as 12 ballistic missiles have struck Iraq’s northern Kurdish regional capital Erbil, with some reports suggesting several landed near the US consulate building.
A US official said the missiles were launched from neighboring Iran early on Sunday morning, but there were no reports of casualties.
Officials in Iraq and the US gave different accounts of damage. One US official said there was no damage and no casualties at any US government facility, and that there was no indication the target was the consulate building, which is new and currently unoccupied.
An Iraqi official in Baghdad at first said several missiles had hit the consulate and that it was the target of the attack. Later, Lawk Ghafari, the head of Kurdistan’s foreign media office, said none of the missiles hit the US facility but that areas around the compound had been hit.
A US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was not certain exactly how many missiles were fired and where they landed. A US state department spokesperson called it an “outrageous attack against Iraqi sovereignty and display of violence”.
The health ministry in Erbil said there had been no casualties.
“Several missiles fell on the city of Erbil,” said Erbil governor Omid Khoshnaw, quoted by the Iraqi news agency INA.
The governor said it was not clear whether the intended target was the US consulate or the airport, where there is a base for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group.
“We condemn this terrorist attack launched against several sectors of Erbil, we call on the inhabitants to remain calm,” Kurdistan prime minister Masrour Barzani said in a statement.
The attack comes several days after an Israeli strike near Damascus, Syria killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Iraqi media acknowledging the attacks, without saying where they originated.
Satellite broadcast channel Kurdistan24, which is located near the US consulate, went on air from their studio shortly after the attack, showing shattered glass and debris on their studio floor.
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.
A spokesperson for the regional authorities said there were no flight interruptions at Erbil airport.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Residents of Erbil posted videos online showing several large explosions, and some said the blasts shook their homes. Reuters could not independently verify those videos.
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.
Iraqi political parties, most of which have armed wings, are also involved 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.
The chief political foes of those groups include their powerful Shia rival, the populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has vowed to form a government that leaves out Iran’s allies and includes Kurds and Sunnis.
The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism