UK confirms British businessman died in IRGC strike on Erbil site

Karam Mikhael was one of five people who died during Monday's missile strike on Erbil

The aftermath of a missile attack by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.  AFP
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A British citizen was killed during an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) strike on a site in northern Iraq, the UK government has confirmed.

Five civilians, including two children, died in the missile strike in Erbil on Monday, according to Iraqi Kurdish officials.

It targeted the family home of Kurdish businessman Peshraw Dizayee, who was killed alongside his 11-month-old daughter.

Stephen Hitchen, the British ambassador to Iraq, confirmed the death of dual citizen Karam Mikhael in the attack.

“I extend my deepest condolences to the families of all the victims of yesterday’s reckless attacks, and in particular to the family of British national Karam Mikhael. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time," he said.

Mr Mikhael's family, who held a wake for him on Wednesday, strongly rejected claims that he was involved in business with Israel, according to Kurdistan media site Rudaw.

Mr Mikhael, the founder and Chief Executive of Manahil El Ryan, a consumer electronics distributor in Iraq and the country’s first online marketplace was attending a social gathering at the time of the strike, it said. The Erbil branch employs almost 150 people.

The government said Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron raised his death during his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Iran, Hossein Amirabdollahian, in Davos on Wednesday.

A representative said: “The Foreign Secretary condemned the attacks in Erbil in Iraq, which killed UK-Iraqi dual national Karam Mikhael. Attacks like this violate the sovereignty of other states.”

Iran claimed Mr Dizayee’s house was a Mossad office, but his business empire has no apparent links to Israel, although his company's website says it is involved in oil services, a crowded sector in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan Region rejected the claim that the site was an Israeli spy base.

The region previously exported oil to Israel, but has not done so since early last year, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank said.

The IRGC claimed the attacks in Iraq's Kurdish region, which consists of three provinces, were also aimed at “destroying anti-Iranian terrorist groups” in the area.

The IRGC also hit targets in eastern Syria in a separate missile attack on the same night.

In both instances, Iran claimed the attacks were in response to a January 3 bombing in Kerman, Iran, which killed nearly 100 people at an event commemorating Iranian general Qassem Suleimani’s death in a 2020 US air strike near Baghdad.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had vowed a “harsh response” to the attack, which was claimed by ISIS, but which Tehran has blamed on Israel and the US.

The IRGC has since struck the Baloch group Jaish ul Adl in Pakistan, which Iran has accused of taking part in an attack on a police station in the south of the country.

Updated: January 23, 2024, 10:54 AM