The US scrambled an F-15 jet to shoot down an Iranian drone that appeared to be heading towards US forces in Erbil, Iraq, on Wednesday, a US official told CNN.
US forces launched the jet after tracking dozens of Iranian short range ballistic missiles headed for Kurdish positions in northern Iraq, two other US officials said.
The initial assessment is that the launches originated inside Iran, the officials said.
“This was a significant incident,” one of the officials told CNN.
“At approximately 2:10 p.m. local time, U.S. forces brought down an Iranian Mojer-6 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle headed in the direction of Erbil as it appeared as a threat to USCENTCOM forces in the area,” US Central Command, which oversees the US military presence in the Middle East, said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, nine people were killed, including civilians, after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted Kurdish separatist groups in northern Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] Health Minister Saman Barzanji told CNN.
The IRGC used missiles and drones to target the offices of Kurdish groups, designated by Iran as terrorist organizations, the Iranian Tasnim news agency said, quoting the IRGC.
US Central Command condemned the “unprovoked attack” from the IRGC in Iraq, saying, “Such indiscriminate attacks threaten innocent lives and risk the hard-fought stability of the region.”
No US forces were wounded or killed as a result of the IRGC strikes, and there was no damage to US equipment, US Central Command said.
Iran has targeted militants based in Iraq’s Kurdish region in the past, but attacks have increased since the weekend. Tehran is accusing Kurdish groups of destabilizing the country by supporting protesters who have demonstrated against Iranian authorities following the death of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested by the morality police in Iran.
Erbil has come under attack several times in recent months. In June, a drone exploded in the city, injuring three people and damaging several cars.
In March, Iran attacked Iraq’s northern city of Erbil with a dozen ballistic missiles.
The Saudi channel Al-Hadath reported at the time that the missiles were fired in retaliation for the killing of two officers from the Revolutionary Guards in an air strike in Syria this week which was attributed to Israel.