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Iraqi police in new clashes at Mujahedeen camp

Article published on the 2009-07-29 Latest update 2009-07-29 14:50 TU

An injured man shouts after clashes with Iraqi forces in Camp Ashraf(Photo: Reuters/National Council of Resistance of Iran/Handout)

An injured man shouts after clashes with Iraqi forces in Camp Ashraf
(Photo: Reuters/National Council of Resistance of Iran/Handout)

Clashes flared for the second day at Camp Ashraf in Iraq's Diyala province, as security forces battle members of the exiled Iranian rebel group, the People's Mujahedeen.

"Fighting resumed when Iraqi police established a police station and hoisted the Iraqi flag," police Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim al-Karawi said on Wednesday.

He said that the security forces now control 75 per cent of the camp, which soldiers stormed on Tuesday. The People's Mujahedeen said that seven camp residents were killed and 385 wounded. Police say that 300 residents were injured, along with 110 security personnel, and that more than 50 camp residents have been detained.

Two police officers died in hospital from injuries sustained the day before.

French-based leaders of the group, which calls itself the National Council of Resistance in Iran, slammed the police action.

"Some People's Mujaheddin in Camp Ashraf said that they were ready to return to Iran," the movement's Afchine Alavi told RFI's French service, claiming that the Iraqi government is acting under orders from Tehran.

Rajavi on Wednesday called the seizure of the camp "a flagrant violation of international conventions".

The Speaker of the Iranian parliament, Ali Larijani, described the operation as "praiseworthy" but "rather late". Leading Iranian MP Hossein Sobhani-Nia called for the residents to be handed over to Tehran.

Last March the Iraqi government decided to move the camp's occupants into the desert, further away from the frontier. Iraqi security forces took over responsibility for the camp from the US military three months ago under the Status of Forces Agreement.

The People's Mujahadeen was founded in 1965 to fight the Shah of Iran but came into conflict with hardline Islamists after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Camp Ashraf was established in the 1980s, during Saddam Hussein's war with Iran, as a base for operations against the Iranian government.

"These dissidents were protected by the Americans in Iraq really since 2003 because the Americans, one way or another, saw them as an ally against the Iranian government," says UK-based journalist Patrick Cockburn.

Analysis: Author and journalist Patrick Cockburn

29/07/2009 by Marco Chown Oved

"The mujahideen are very unpopular with many Iraqis... because they were allied to Saddam Hussein," he told RFI. "So it's not too surprising that they've always been eager to get rid of them. As the US withdraws, the mujahideen didn't really have any protector."

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