Iranian shelling kills 2 in Iraq's Kurdistan

AP News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2011 8:07 AM
Iranian shelling kills 2 in Iraq's Kurdistan

Iranian forces shelled suspected rebel outposts in Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region, killing two Iraqi civilians, officials said Monday, in the latest in a string of cross-border attacks that have forced hundreds of residents to flee.

The artillery fire hit the small Iraqi town of Sidkan, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the Iraq-Iran frontier, said Sidkan mayor Ahmed Qadir. He added that three residents were wounded in the four hours of shelling. Kurdish border guard Capt. Ahmed Saleh confirmed the casualties.

The Iranian attack appeared to target bases of the Iranian Kurdish opposition group PEJAK, which stands for the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan. The group has been involved in sporadic clashes with Iranian forces in recent years and says it is fighting for greater rights in Iran.

The border-area violence has forced more than 800 Iraqi Kurdish residents to flee their homes, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

ICRC said it has so far given humanitarian aid to 175 Iraqi Kurdish families.

"Having left behind all their belongings, the majority of these people are now living under makeshift shelters, tents or sharing crowded houses with relatives or friends," the ICRC said in a statement Monday.

Tehran maintains that is has the right to attack PEJAK's bases in Iraq and has accused residents of Iraq's Kurdish region of providing a safe haven for rebels.

The border area has been a flashpoint of conflict over the last several years, even as the Shiite-led governments of both countries move to strengthen their political ties.

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Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.