October 24, 2017

Iraq says 11 dead in Iran camp as Amnesty seeks probe

A picture released by the People's Mujahedeen Iranian opposition group allegedly shows police beating protestors - AFP


BAQUBA, Iraq — Eleven residents of a camp housing Iran’s main exiled opposition movement have died since Iraqi forces stormed the site, a local Iraqi security official said on Thursday.

The toll was revealed as Amnesty International called for a probe into “apparent excessive use of force” by Iraqi forces when they took over Camp Ashraf, home to 3,500 People’s Mujahedeen members and their families.

“According to our information seven died on Tuesday and four in the two following days,” the source, a senior security official in Diyala province where the camp is situated, told AFP.

It is the first time Iraqi security forces have confirmed deaths among the camp’s residents. The official also said around 300 of the People’s Mujahedeen were wounded and more than 50 have been arrested.

The US State Department said meanwhile that Iraq has allowed a US military medical team to provide medical care to Iranian opposition members injured in the storming of the camp.

“We’re providing medical care and treatment, medical supplies and assessing any kind of follow-on treatment or support that these residents might require,” spokesman Ian Kelly said on Thursday in Washington.

The United States has also proposed allowing a US probe into the number of deaths and injuries, he said.

Iraqi police said earlier the situation was calm in Camp Ashraf, where they have set up police station. Some 800 Iraqi soldiers and more than 200 police officers are deployed inside the People’s Mujahedeen base, they said.

Amnesty meanwhile “called on the Iraqi government to investigate the apparent excessive use of force by its security forces,” the London-based human rights group said in a statement.

“Eight people are reported to have been killed and up to 400 injured after Iraqi forces attacked unarmed Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf,” it said.

Amnesty urged Baghdad to “reveal the whereabouts of the 50 people detained and ensure that they are protected from torture or other ill-treatment, as well as from forcible return to Iran.”

Iraqi soldiers are not allowing journalists to enter the camp, north of Baghdad, meaning it is not possible to independently confirm tolls of the dead and wounded.

The People’s Mujahedeen said 12 camp residents died in the violence. The death of two police officers, announced by the hospital in the nearby town of Khales, was not confirmed by authorities in Baghdad.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said Camp Ashraf will be renamed “Camp of New Iraq”.

“The government confirms it will continue to treat the inhabitants humanely and it will respect international conventions, but they must respect Iraqi law and the sovereignty of the state, which is in sole charge of security,” he said.

“We call on the leaders of the Mujahedeen not to incite its people to violence and confrontation with Iraqi government forces.

“The government will use all its legal and constitutional powers to impose the state’s authority against troublemakers,” Dabbagh said.

Maryam Rajavi, head of the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran which includes the Mujahedeen, condemned the raid and accused Baghdad of doing Tehran’s bidding.

The People’s Mujahedeen, a Marxist and Islamic movement, was founded in 1965 in opposition to the shah and has subsequently fought to oust the clerical regime which took power in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The group set up Camp Ashraf in the 1980s — when former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was at war with the Islamic republic — as a base to operate against the Tehran government.

Iran has accused the Mujahedeen of playing a key role in fomenting the protests which followed last month’s disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.