Attack kills 5 at Iranian exile camp in Iraq
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — A camp housing Iranian dissidents in Iraq was attacked Saturday morning, leaving at least five dead and 40 wounded, Iraqi police said.
The rocket and mortar attack occurred at Camp Liberty, formerly a U.S. base, which is now the home of the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq.
Accounts of the number of people killed and wounded in the attack varied.
Shahriar Kia, a spokesman for Mujahedin-e-Khalq, said the incident left six dead and 50 wounded.
The residents at the camp were vulnerable both because the attack happened when most were asleep and because many lack adequate shelter, said Kia.
The residents are “squeezed into a small area, without shelter,” said Kia.
Mujahedin-e-Khalq recently moved from Camp Ashraf in Diyala province to Camp Liberty in Baghdad. Leaders of the dissident group had been reluctant to move to the new camp because of the conditions there, calling it more a prison than a home when they first arrived.
The group’s move to the base is intended as a temporary measure before members are resettled in third countries.
Residents and their representatives and lawyers have appealed to the U.N. Secretary-General and U.S. officials to let them return to Ashraf, which they say has concrete buildings and shelters that offer more protection.
The United States has been working with the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees on the resettlement project.
Mujahedin-e-Khalq was removed from a U.S. State Department terror list in September, following a decision by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The group was put on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, which includes more than 50 groups like al Qaeda and Hezbollah, in 1997 because of the killing of six Americans in Iran in the 1970s and an attempted attack against the Iranian mission to the United Nations in 1992.
However, since 2004 the United States has considered the group, which has lived for more than 25 years at a refugee camp in Iraq, “noncombatants” and “protected persons” under the Geneva Conventions.
Iran still considers the group to be a terrorist organization.