Clashes at Iranian dissident camp in Iraq

Iraqi security forces say 15 people were killed; other reports put toll at 44

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 September, 2013, 5:32am

At least 15 people were killed in clashes following a mortar attack on an Iranian dissident camp north of Baghdad yesterday, two security sources said.

It was not clear who fired the mortars, and those who died were killed in later clashes between security forces and camp residents, the sources said.

One of the sources said Iraqi security forces opened fire on a crowd which stormed a post at the entrance to Camp Ashraf, a site that Iraq's government wants closed down. About 50 people were wounded, the source said.

A dissident group, Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), said 44 of its 100 members in the camp were killed by Iraqi security forces. Some of them were machine-gunned with their hands tied behind their backs, MEK said.

MEK, which the US State Department removed from its list of terrorist organisations last year, wants Iran's clerical leaders overthrown, and fought with former Iraqi Sunni Muslim leader Saddam Hussein's forces in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

It has been trying to recast itself as an Iranian opposition force but is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shiite Muslim-led government that came to power after US-led forces invaded and toppled Saddam in 2003.

Mortar attacks on a newer MEK camp in a former military compound in western Baghdad, where authorities had relocated most Camp Ashraf MEK members, took place in February and June.

At the time, MEK blamed Iran's Quds force - an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards with a focus on foreign operations.

The UN in Iraq condemned yesterday's "tragic events", without giving details on what had happened.

"The priority for the Iraqi government is to provide immediate medical assistance to the injured and to ensure their security and safety against any violence from any side," it said.

MEK, also known as the People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran, led a guerilla campaign against the US-backed Iranian shah during the 1970s that included attacks on US targets.