Just hours before the president’s national address, during which he accused Iran of supporting attacks on American troops, U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Erbil, Kurdistan, abducting at least five people and seizing documents and other property, according to eyewitnesses.
Outraged, Kurdish authorities demanded the release of the prisoners and, shortly after the raid, Kurdish security forces surrounded U.S. soldiers in a standoff that lasted for more than an hour.
New York Times:
American forces backed by helicopters raided the Iranian consulate in the mainly Kurdish city of Erbil in northern Iraq before dawn [Thursday], detaining at least five Iranian employees in the building and seizing some property, according to Iraqi and Iranian officials and witnesses.
Kurdish forces were in control of the consulate building when a reporter went there after the raid. There was broken glass on the pavement outside the building, and no sign of the Iranian flag.
A statement from the United States military [Thursday] did not mention the Iranian consulate specifically, saying only that six people were taken into custody in “routine security operations” in the Erbil area. Other than saying they were “suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraqi and Coalition forces on Jan. 11,” the statement did not say who the people were.
But the American statement did warn that “the Coalition will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to prevent interference by hostile actors in Iraq’s internal security affairs.”
Statements by the Iranian government were more explicit. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said that United States forces arrested five Iranian staff members at the consulate early this morning, and confiscated computers and documents.