Iraqi troops against a camp for Iranian exiles, enemies of Tehran
Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Iraqi soldiers and police have attacked an Iranian refugee camp belonging to the Mujaheddin-e-Khalq. The act of violence took place while Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense was in Iraq. A spokesman for the Iraqi government says that the police only wanted to take full control of the camp and had warned camp leaders one day before; but the leaders of the group say that there were at least 4 dead, 300 injured and 29 arrested in the raid.
According to broadcast images of the episode, some 800 Iraqi soldiers tried to take possession of the camp, while hundreds of refugees barred their entry. The police then responded with water jets and truncheons.
The Ashraf camp hosts at least 3500 people and is located approximately 100 km north of Baghdad, in Diyala province, not far from the Iranian border. It was built in the '80s to accommodate Mujaheddin-e-Khalq guerrillas, enemies of Khomeini, who had fled Iran. Saddam Hussein helped them in order to weaken Iran during the war against Tehran.
In 2003 U.S. forces disarmed the camp, but guaranteed the refugees safety. Now that the Americans are leaving, there is constant pressure from Tehran, now a friend of the Shiite leadership in Baghdad, to eliminate the enemies of the Islamic Republic.
The Mujaheddin-e-Khalq was founded in the'60s by Muslim students of Marxist inspiration. At first it participated with other groups in the liberation of Iran from the rule of the Shah, with summary executions and terrorist attacks. Then, with the strengthening of his power, Khomeini launched fierce war against them. The Mujaheddin-e-Khalq are suspected of helping Saddam Hussein in his violent purges of Kurds and Shiites.