July 26, 2017

UK church leaders voice concern after killings in Iraqi refugee camp

INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS

There has been widespread condemnation by church leaders and aid organisations after more than 52 Iranian refugees were killed on Sunday at Camp Ashraf in Iraq.

The Mujahideen-e Khalq group accuse the Iraqi army of attacking the camp, but officials deny that any soldiers had gone there.

The UN mission in Iraq has called on Iraqi officials to ensure security for residents at the camp and urged an end to the violence so medical help could reach the wounded.

“The only thing we can confirm is there are a lot of casualties,” Eliana Nabaa, a UN spokeswoman said.

Camp Ashraf, in northeast Baghdad, was established in the 1980s to shelter more than 3,000 members of the Mujahideen-e Khalq group, who opposed the Iranian government. The US State Department had placed the group on their list of terrorist organisations until last year.

Many had been moved to other camps but there were believed to be about 100 people left in the camp before the attack.

A spokesman for Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “The Iraqi government has a moral and legal duty to protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. The Baghdad authorities must ensure the safety of the residents to prevent any more violence being inflicted on them and to facilitate their swift resettlement in a third country, under international supervision.”

The Anglican Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, said he was “troubled by reports of the latest attacks” – “and by news that Iraq has been denying the Ashraf residents the right to family visits and full access to proper medical treatment”.

Bishop Pritchard said that he would like to see United States’ forces “take back responsibility for protecting Camp Ashraf”.

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