Group: Iraq troops poised to attack exiles

2013-09-03 19:25
Protesters at the White House in Washington, urging the US to protect Camp Ashraf.

Protesters at the White House in Washington, urging the US to protect Camp Ashraf. (Jewel Samad, AFP)

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Paris - An umbrella body of Iranian opposition groups claimed on Tuesday that Iraqi troops blocked off a camp housing Iranian exiles north of Baghdad, where 52 people died over the weekend, to kill the remaining residents.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran said the soldiers arrived at Camp Ashraf, smashed a barrier and entered the residential area "under the ridiculous pretext that the inhabitants had laid explosives".

They ringed the area and prevented anyone from leaving or entering, a statement said. The soldiers had weapons and batons and the camp's power supply was cut off, it said.

The statement said the aim was "to massacre the rest of the inhabitants of Ashraf", adding that the camp's residents told the Iraqi soldiers that any entry should be made in the presence of UN and US embassy staff.

The soldiers were "poised for an attack", the statement said.

The People's Mujahedeen Organisation of Iran, which is part of the umbrella council, has accused Iraqi troops of carrying out the weekend "massacre" at Ashraf.

The violence was condemned by the UN's refugee agency, which is charged with relocating the group's members outside Iraq, and the US State Department, but neither assigned blame for the unrest.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has set up an inquiry and a UN team visited the camp in Diyala province near the border with Iran to try to establish what happened.

An Iraqi security official said the deaths were probably a result of infighting in the camp.

Around 3 000 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group were moved from Ashraf last year to Camp Liberty, on a former US military base on the outskirts of Baghdad, but about 100 stayed on at the old camp to deal with remaining property and goods.

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein allowed the rebel Mujahedeen-e-Khalq to set up the camp during his war with Iran in the 1980s.

The Mek was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and after the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted him it took up arms against Iran's clerical rulers.

It says it has now laid down its arms and is working to overthrow the Islamic regime in Iran by peaceful means.

Read more on:    iran  |  iraq

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