Iraq Raid On Iranian Exiles' Camp Ashraf 'Killed 34'

The United Nations says 34 people were killed during an Iraqi army raid last Friday on Camp Ashraf, the base of an Iranian exile group.

An Iraqi army soldier stands guard near a damaged tent at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 8, 2011. Iraq security forces raided the settlement of an Iranian exile group that the Shiite-led government has for years tried to oust, leaving at least 10 people dead after pre-dawn clashes Friday, officials said.

The United Nations says 34 people were killed during an Iraqi army raid last Friday on Camp Ashraf, the base of an Iranian exile group.

It is the first independent report of the death toll after the clash between the army and members of the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI).

The figure matched those reported by the PMOI. The Iraqi army had said three people died.

This week Iraq said the PMOI must leave the country by the end of the year.

The group, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the US and Iran, has been based in Iraq since the 1980s.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said a team of observers had seen 28 bodies at the camp and that most had been shot.

"It's clearly a very serious incident and we are trying to get more information," Mr Colville said.

He said six bodies had not been found.

Destroyed structures are seen at Camp Ashraf, in Khalis, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 8, 2011. Iraq security forces raided the settlement of an Iranian exile group that the Shiite-led government has for years tried to oust, leaving at least 10 people dead after pre-dawn clashes Friday, officials said.

A Western diplomat in Baghdad said three bodies appeared to have been crushed to death, likely from being run over by a car, according to the Associated Press.

Protection urged

Iraqi officials said the army entered Camp Ashraf - in Diyala province north of Baghdad and home to about 3,500 people - last Friday to confront stone-throwers, and said the clashes were limited.

But the PMOI said the raid was a full-scale military assault with armoured vehicles, and said 300 others had been injured.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says UN observers had been asking to visit the camp for five days, and were finally allowed in on Wednesday.

Relatives of residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq mourn during a press conference in Washington, DC, on April 8, 2011. At least three people were killed Friday when Iraqi forces clashed with an Iranian opposition group, a security official said, but the rebels claimed 31 of its members died in a full military assault. Major Hassan al-Tamimi of the Iraqi army in Baquba, capital of central Diyala province, said the armed forces clashed with stone-throwing crowds at the Camp Ashraf base of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, or PMOI. The National Council of Resistance, whose main component is PMOI, said in Paris that 31 of its members were killed and 300 wounded, 19 of them critically in a full-fledged military assault on its base about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Baghdad.

Our correspondent says that observers found a number of women among the dead, and that many more were reported injured.

The Iraqi defence ministry has said it will launch an investigation into the operation.

More than 100 European parliamentarians have signed a statement urging the US and the UN to help protect those living at the camp.

The PMOI, also known as Mojahedin-e Khalq, was welcomed in the 1980s by then-President Saddam Hussein, who was fighting a war against Iran. He funded and armed the PMOI, which fought alongside Iraqi troops.

In 2009, the US military handed responsibility for the camp to Iraq's Shia-led government, which has repeatedly vowed to close it.

Earlier this week, Iraq said the PMOI must leave Iraq by the end of the year.

"This organisation must be removed from Iraqi territory by all means, including political and diplomatic, with the co-operation of the UN and international organisations," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

FILE - In this April. 8, 2011 file photo, Iraqi Army soldiers stand guard near burned trailers at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad, Iraq. A Western diplomat says U.N. observers found 28 bodies during a tour of a camp of Iranian exiles stormed by Iraqi soldiers last week.

BBC