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Iraq

Fatal unrest at Iranian dissident camp in Iraq

Iraq has denied that its troops killed Iranian dissidents at a camp in Diyala province, north of Baghdad. UN officials in Iraq say they are looking into claims that five mortars fell on the camp.

An Iranian dissident group claimed on Sunday that 44 of its members had been killed at a camp inside Iraq, allegedly by Iraqi troops. Iraqi officials denied that account, saying barrels of oil and gas had exploded at Camp Ashraf (pictured above) in Diyala province, near Iraq's border with Iran.

Spokesmen for the Mujahadin-e-Khalq (MEK) and Iraqi officials gave markedly differing descriptions of Sunday's unrest.

One source quoted by the news agency Reuters said Iraqi security forces had opened fire on persons who tried to storm an entrance post.

However, an Iraqi camp supervisor, Haqi al-Sharifi, said there had been "no attack from the outside against the camp."

"But, what seems to have happened is that some barrels of oil and gas inside Ashraf exploded. The police are investigating," al-Sharifi added.

A spokesman for MEK, Shahria Kia, claimed that the Iraqi government, which wants to shut down the camp, was trying to "minimize" accounts of the incident.

"This attack was done in coordination with Iranian forces, " Kia said. He added that six women had been kidnapped.

Infighting, says Iraq

Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, confirmed that some camp residents had been killed. He attributed the deaths to infighting among camp residents.

The acting United Nations envoy to Iraq, Gyorgy Busztin, said the UN mission was "using all possible means to conduct its own assessment of the situation." The refugee agency UNHCR said "it appears that deadly force has been used."

Camp Ashraf houses about 100 MEK members given the job of winding down the facility.

Last year, about 3,000 MEK members were moved from Ashraf to Camp Liberty, a former US military base, near Baghdad.

Previous attacks

In February and June, mortar attacks on Camp Liberty claimed several lives.

The MEK was founded in the 1960s. It initially opposed the-then shah of Iran and then took up arms against Iran's Islamic clerical rulers after the revolution of 1979.

In recent years, the MEK renounced the use of weapons and was struck off terror lists by Britain, the European Union and the United States.

The UN has been overseeing attempts to resettle MEK members outside of Iraq. So far, 162 MEK members have been resettled, mostly in Albania.

ipj/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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