Amid unrest, Iranian Guard attacks militant group in Iraq

In this photo taken by an individual not employed by The Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, protesters chant slogans during a protest over the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police, in downtown Tehran, on Wednesday.

TEHRAN (AP) — Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard on Saturday attacked a Kurdish militant group’s base located in the north of neighboring Iraq, state media said, a week after widespread anti-government protests began over a young woman’s death in police custody.

The death of a 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police, has launched unrest across Iran’s provinces and capital of Tehran. Amini’s family hails from Iran’s Kurdish region.

IRNA said the Guard’s ground forces fired artillery from positions within Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, attacking what it described as a “terrorist group” based across the border in Iraq. The report did not elaborate.

IRNA also said some members of a separatist group, so-called “Komleh” in Iran, were arrested by intelligence forces, without giving details.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to Iran’s military, quoted the Guard’s statement as saying the operation will continue in order to ensure border security.

Tasnim added that the attack targeted the bases of Kurdish separatist groups in the north of Iraq and took place at 16:00 local time, and caused serious damage to them.

The Guard’s attacks were in response to the support of the separatist group for the recent unrest in the country, as well as their attempt to import weapons into Iran, the report said.

State TV suggested Saturday that 41 protesters and policemen have been killed since the protests erupted last Saturday. He said official statistics would be released by the Interior Ministry. According to a tally by The Associated Press, there have been at least 11 deaths from both sides since protests began after Amini’s funeral.

Iranian authorities have also disrupted or cut internet access to stymy the protests, and tightened restrictions on popular platforms like Instagram and WhatsApp.

On Monday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that his satellite internet firm Starlink would seek permission to operate in Iran. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said it was up to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to decide on Starlink’s next steps.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Friday it was allowing American tech firms to expand their business in Iran, one of the most sanctioned countries in the world, to boost internet access for the Iranian people.

Iran’s foreign ministry condemned the United States’ move and said “bids to violate Iran’s sovereignty won’t go unanswered.”

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani in a tweet accused the U.S. of “nefarious designs”. He said Washington was “loosening communications sanctions, while keeping Max Pressure in place. Both meant to provoke instability.”