December 15, 2017

Eight killed in clashes at Iranian exile camp in Iraq


Baghdad/Tehran, July 29 (DPA) – Eight people have been killed and more than 455 injured in clashes between Iraqi security forces and an armed Iranian rebel group in northwesten Iraq, authorities said Wednesday.

Abdel-Nasser al-Mahdawi, Governor of Iraq’s northeastern Diyala province, told reporters that eight members of the People’s Mujahidin of Iran (PMOI) organisation were killed and at least 425 others were injured Tuesday in clashes between the group and Iraqi policemen at Camp Ashraf, the group’s base in Iraq.

Al-Mahdawi said that 30 members of the Iraqi security forces were also injured in the clashes, and that 50 more suffered from the effects of tear gas blown back at them by the wind.

Earlier Wednesday, Shahriar Kia, a spokesman for the exiled group, said that five people died of injuries sustained in the clashes at Camp Ashraf, and that 385 had been injured, 13 of them critically.

“This aggression is a clear violation of international conventions and the assurances of the governments of Iraq and the US regarding the protection of Ashraf residents,” PMOI leader Maryam Rajavi said in a statement released from Rome Wednesday.

Al-Mahdawi said police had arrived at the camp to establish a police station there, and responded with tear gas when camp residents tried to prevent them from entering.

Iraqi government Ali al-Dabbagh last week announced that the Iraqi government would assume control of the security and administration of the camp, following the transfer of responsibility for the camp’s security from US to Iraqi forces.

He added that the Iraqi government did not intend to force any of the Iranian rebels to leave Iraq.

Omar Faruq, a member of Diyala’s provincial council, said that US forces were in the area during the confrontation, but did not intervene.

A US State Department statement Tuesday said while developments at Camp Ashraf were a matter for the government of Iraq to handle, the US would monitor the situation.

The Iranian government meanwhile applauded the Iraqi police actions. Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying: “Although the move by the Iraqi government came late, it is still welcomed that Iraqi territory has been cleared of terrorists.”

Iran and the US list the PMOI as a terrorist group, which is blamed for several high-profile political assassinations in Iran.

After the group was expelled from France in the 1980s, Iraq’s then-president, Saddam Hussein, allocated it a military base near the border with Iran.

Iran has said that before US troops toppled Hussein’s government, the PMOI frequently infiltrated its territory, leading to clashes and casualties on both sides.

After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US military disarmed the group and was responsible for protecting it in the face of sectarian violence throughout Iraq. In the summer of 2008, that responsibility was handed over to the Iraqi army.