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34 killed in Iraqi raid on Iranian exile camp: UN

Posted by on April 15, 2011 0 Comment

Thirty-four Iranian exiles were killed when Iraqi soldiers stormed Camp Ashraf last week, a UN spokesman said today in the first independent death toll of the raid that has drawn sharp rebukes from Baghdad’s Western allies.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville in Geneva said a team of UN observers saw 28 bodies still at the camp during a Wednesday visit to the exiles’ compound in eastern Diyala province. Most of the bodies appeared to have been shot, he said.

Three of the bodies appeared to have been crushed to death, a Western diplomat in Baghdad said likely from being run over by a car.

“It’s clearly a very serious incident and we are trying to get more information,” Colville said. Women were among the dead, he said.

He said six bodies have still not been found. The raid targeted the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which seeks to overthrow Iran’s clerical leaders. The group won refuge at Camp Ashraf years ago during the regime of Saddam Hussein, who saw them as a convenient ally against Iran.

But since then, the exiles have been an irritant to Iraq’s new Shiite-led government that is trying to bolster ties with Tehran.

Both Iran and the US consider the group to be a terrorist threat, although the European Union removed the People’s Mujahedeen from its own terror list several years ago.

Today’s UN visit to Camp Ashraf came five days after agency first demanded to be allowed in. The Iraqi army and police have blocked access to the camp for more than a year, following a similar raid in July 2009.

Until the visit, the only official casualty count in the raid came from the morgue at Baqouba public hospital, where officials said they received 12 bodies from the camp.

Ashraf resident Shahriar Kia said the 12 bodies at the morgue are likely among about 50 camp residents who died after they were taken to the hospital hours after the raid. Agencies

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