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US confirms American citizen killed in Iranian rocket attack in Iraq

Omar Mahmoudzadeh's family confirmed to Al-Monitor that he died in an Iranian strike Thursday in the Iraqi-Kurdish town of Koya.
Smoke billows following an Iranian cross-border attack in the area of Zargwez.

A US citizen was killed in an Iranian rocket attack in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq on Wednesday, his family and the US State Department confirmed to Al-Monitor.

Omar Mahmoudzadeh, a 59-year-old American born in Iran, moved from the United States to Iraq in 2019 to join the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI), an Iranian Kurdish opposition group that’s considered a terrorist organization by Tehran. 

Khalid Azizi, a spokesman for the KDPI, described Mahmoudzadeh as a well-known party member and retired peshmerga fighter who previously fought against Iranian regime forces when the KDPI was still engaged in armed activities.

On Wednesday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unleashed a wave of missiles and drones on what Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency labeled “separatist” groups in northern Iraq.

The targets included KDPI’s headquarters in the Iraqi-Kurdish town of Koya. According to Azizi, eight people were killed in the Iranian strikes, including Mahmoudzadeh, who was working in the compound’s social center at the time of his death. Azizi added that as many as 30 people were injured, including several children.

Mahmoudzadeh’s family learned about his death through social media on Wednesday and received confirmation in a telephone call from the State Department early on Thursday morning.

From her home in northern Virginia on Thursday, Tara Mahmoudzadeh described her father as “a very good man” respected by his community.

“It was a very surreal thing to come home to,” she said. “There are a thousand things that go through your head when you hear that your father has passed away from a bombing. ... Did he die in agony?”

In a phone briefing with reporters on Thursday, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed that a US citizen was killed in a rocket attack in Iraqi Kurdistan. He declined to provide further information, citing privacy considerations.

The State Department said Wednesday that no US officials or military personnel were killed in the attacks.

Iran's stepped up bombing campaign in neighboring Iraq comes as nationwide protests continue in Iran over the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

On Wednesday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the Iranian drone and missile attacks as a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and warned Iran against trying to deflect from its own internal problems. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry and the Kurdistan Regional Government also condemned the Iranian strikes.

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