Iran kills 30 Kurdish rebels near Iraqi border

AP News
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Posted: Sep 05, 2011 6:43 AM
Iran kills 30 Kurdish rebels near Iraqi border

Iran's Revolutionary Guard soldiers have killed at least 30 members of Kurdish opposition group in fighting near the Iraqi border, a senior military official said Monday.

Col. Hamid Ahmadi was quoted by state TV as saying that 40 other members of the Iranian Kurdish group PEJAK were injured during fierce clashes outside the border city of Sardasht.

PEJAK, which stands for the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, has been involved in sporadic armed clashes with Iranian forces in recent years. The rebels say they are fighting for greater rights for their minority community.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard announced a new military offensive intended to drive PEJAK from positions in Iran last week, saying it resumed military operations after the expiration of a one-month deadline it had set for the group to leave the border region.

Tehran maintains it has the right to attack PEJAK's bases across the border in Iraq and has accused residents of Iraq's Kurdish north of providing a safe haven for the rebels. Iraqi Kurds control three provinces in northern Iraq that make up their autonomous region.

Iran has sporadically bombed PEJAK bases deep inside Iraq's northern Kurdistan region.

Inside Iraq, meanwhile, a PEJAK spokesman declared an immediate, unilateral cease-fire on Monday. Shirzad Kamanger appealed for Iranian forces to stop shelling rebel bases and open talks over their demands for greater rights in Iran.

Ahmadi rejected the call.

"As a result of heavy Guard fire, they've asked for a cease-fire. ... A cease-fire with a terrorist group doesn't make any sense," he was quoted as saying. "We want them to leave the border region before any dialogue can be held."

Iran has publicly accused the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani, of providing bases to PEJAK without informing the central Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Iran has also accused the U.S., Britain and Israel of seeking to incite tension on Iran's borders to undermine the government in Tehran _ charges those three countries have denied.