Piecing It Together: The Iranian Attack on Erbil

What Happened?  On January 15, at around 11:30 local time, ten ballistic missiles were fired at various locations in Erbil, including the private residence of a prominent Kurdis

Piecing It Together: The Iranian Attack on Erbil
January 19, 2024

What Happened? 

On January 15, at around 11:30 local time, ten ballistic missiles were fired at various locations in Erbil, including the private residence of a prominent Kurdish businessman located just outside the city.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) confirmed in a statement following the attack that Peshraw Dizayee, the owner of Falcon Group, which oversees major projects such as Empire World, was among those killed at his home.

Subsequent reports from officials in Erbil verified that four people were injured, with six others sustaining wounds, some in critical condition. The casualties included an 11-month-old daughter of Dizayee, a maid, and Karam Mikhail, a businessman and owner of Rayyan al-Iraq Group, who was attending a social gathering at Dizayee’s residence.

Over 72 hours after the attack, a 41-year-old maid from the Dizayee household, originally a Filipino national, remains missing despite extensive search operations at the site.

Who claimed responsibility? 

Following the attack, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of Iran promptly claimed responsibility, stating in an official announcement that they had launched a series of ballistic missiles targeting what they referred to as the "spy headquarters" of the Israeli Mossad.

Media affiliated with Iran reported that Peshraw Dizayee was alleged to have connections with Mossad, and it was claimed that he played a role in providing logistical support for Israeli espionage operations against Iran. However, these allegations were made without any substantiating evidence.

What Kurdistan and Iraq say? 

Both the Kurdistan Region and Iraqi federal governments swiftly denounced the attack, labeling it as "unjustified," and categorically rejected the presence of any Israeli bases in the region.

"I urge the federal government in Baghdad to take a principled position against the flagrant violation of Iraq’s and the Kurdistan Region’s sovereignty," stated Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a released statement. "I also call on our partners in the international community not to remain silent in the face of repeated attacks against the people of Kurdistan."

The incident occurred while both the Kurdistan Region and Iraqi prime ministers were attending the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Their discussions with world leaders primarily centered around the attack and ways to prevent future violations of Iraqi sovereignty.

Simultaneously, Iraq filed a formal complaint against the Iranian assault at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). PM Mohammad Shia Sudani of Iraq and PM Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan Region also called off a scheduled meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the WEF in Davos.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi government summoned the Iranian ambassador to deliver a note of protest and recalled its envoy from Tehran. Additionally, it urged the Arab League to convene an extraordinary meeting to address the matter.

A day after the attack, a high-level committee led by Iraq’s National Security Advisor, Qassim al-Araji, arrived in Erbil to investigate the incident. In its preliminary report, the committee strongly contested Iran’s claim of targeting a "spy headquarters," stating that thorough investigations confirm the targeted location was solely the private residence of Peshraw Dizayee and had not been utilized for any other purposes.

International Community Reaction 

The international community responded strongly to the deadly attack in Erbil, with many Western allies of the Kurdistan Region and nations in the Arab world denouncing the incident.

"Attacks, by any side, violating Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity must stop. Security concerns must be addressed through dialogue, not strikes," emphasized the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

In a demonstration of support, US Ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, traveled to Erbil to meet with Kurdish leaders and convey her country's solidarity with the Kurdistan Region in the aftermath of the attack.

"Met senior KRG leaders to show our steadfast support & discuss the response to this clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty. My sincere condolences to the families affected," Ambassador Romanowski shared on her official X account after her visit to Erbil.

Stephen Hitchen, the UK Ambassador to Iraq, also made a visit to Erbil following the Iranian attack. On his official X account, he expressed, "I condemn Iran’s act of aggression against Erbil, a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I extend my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in these attacks and express my support for the Kurdistan Regional Government at this critical time."

What survivors and family members say? 

One of the maids, who had been working at Peshraw Dizayee's residence for the past seven years, shared her harrowing experience with local Kurdish media. Recounting the missile attack, she mentioned being in the kitchen at the time and being unable to recall anything beyond a deafening explosion. She later woke up in the hospital with head injuries, a fractured foot, and numerous bruises.

Despite the tragic events, the Filipina maid spoke warmly about her time with the Dizayee family, emphasizing their kindness. 

"About this family... They were so kind [people]. That's why I don't want to think about what happened. He is my good Baba, and he is very supportive to me. Maybe I didn't feel that until he was out of the family," she expressed about Peshraw Dizayee.

Contrary to speculations, both family and friends of Peshraw Dizayee and Karam Mikhail Saridar rejected any connection between the two businessmen and the Israeli Mossad.

Safin Dizayee, head of Kurdistan Region Department of Foreign Affairs and a relative of Peshraw Dizayee, dismissed the allegations as baseless. "The things that have been mentioned are all unfounded. The delegation from Baghdad also came and saw the truth for themselves. The accusations are baseless. It was a great injustice," he stated during a procession held for Saridar.

Similarly, Nazih Wadi', manager of Manahil El Ryan Baghdad branch, refuted the accusations, emphasizing that Saridar's company was "far from politics" and solely focused on business and trade.

The family of Karam Mikhail Saridar, originally from the Nineveh Plains, currently resides in the United Kingdom. At the request of his father, preparations are underway to repatriate Saridar's body to the UK for the funeral. He is survived by his two children.

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