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IRAQ WARS
Mortar attacks kill five at Iran exile camp in Iraq
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 10, 2013


Iraq car bombings kill 33
Baghdad (AFP) Feb 8, 2013 - A spate of car bombs in Shiite areas of Iraq, including two blasts minutes apart at a popular bird market, killed 33 people on Friday, the latest spike in violence amid a simmering political crisis.

The bloodshed came as tens of thousands of people in mostly Sunni parts of the country renewed rallies calling for Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to quit, as they railed against the alleged targeting of their community by authorities.

The latest attacks, which also wounded more than 100, mainly targeted marketplaces that are often crowded on Fridays, the weekly holiday in Iraq, and took the death toll from a week of violence to more than 100.

UN special envoy Martin Kobler in a statement condemned the attacks, and said it was the "duty" of Iraq's leaders to "see what can be put in place to stop this heinous, horrible violence".

Twin explosions at a bird market in the north Baghdad neighbourhood of Kadhimiyah, site of the shrine of a revered figure in Shiite Islam, killed at least 17 people and wounded 45 others, security and medical officials said.

The two car bombs were set off just after 9:00 am (0600 GMT) in a car park adjacent to the market, which is typically packed on a Friday.

Glass and shrapnel was scattered across the scene, an AFP journalist said, while pools of blood had formed on the ground and a chain-link fence was badly mangled.

Several nearby cars were completely destroyed, and while passers-by scanned the wreckage, security forces tried to bar journalists from interviewing people in the area or taking pictures or videos.

Militants have targeted Baghdad's crowded bird markets in the past.

On February 1, 2008 -- also a Friday -- 100 people were killed by two explosions in such markets in central and east Baghdad.

The explosives were strapped to two mentally impaired women and triggered by remote control in coordinated blasts, a top Iraqi security official said at the time.

In the predominantly Shiite Iraqi province of Babil on Friday, two car bombs in the town of Shomali, south of Baghdad, killed 14 people and wounded 49 others, security and medical officials said.

The first exploded on the town's outskirts, while the second was detonated in a market.

Women and children were among the casualties in both attacks, medics said.

Another car bomb killed two people near the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, and two policemen were wounded by gunmen in the main northern city of Mosul, officials said.

Sunni militants, including Al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq, often target Shiite neighbourhoods with deadly attacks in a bid to push the country back to the sectarian bloodshed that blighted it from 2005 to 2008.

The violence is the latest in a wave of unrest including car bombs and suicide attacks after weeks of rallies in Sunni-majority areas calling for Maliki's ouster.

Renewed demonstrations took place on Friday in Sunni areas of Baghdad, as well as in the northern and western cities of Mosul, Samarra, Baquba and Ramadi.

"I have been here for 45 days waiting for my dream to become a reality," said Omar al-Faruq, one demonstrator in Ramadi where protesters have for weeks blocked off a trade route linking Baghdad to Jordan and Syria.

"I dream that Maliki will be tried, the same way as Saddam," he said of dictator Saddam Hussein, who was executed in December 2006 after being tried in Iraq.

A total of 102 people have been killed in violence nationwide in the past week, and January was Iraq's deadliest month since September according to an AFP tally.

Among the attacks since Saturday were three suicide bombings in as many days.

The violence comes less than three months before provincial elections in April, Iraq's first vote since March 2010 and a barometer on the popularity of Maliki and his opponents.

Assailants fired dozens of mortars and rockets Saturday at an Iranian exiles camp in Iraq in an attack that killed five people, the first violent deaths since they resettled near Baghdad last year.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the assault on Camp Liberty, a former US military base on the outskirts of the capital housing about 3,000 members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, or the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).

The United Nations mission in Iraq called for an immediate probe and said monitors were following up on the deaths, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees condemned what he called a "despicable act of violence."

The US State Department labeled the assault a "vicious and senseless terrorist attack," and called on Iraq to probe the attack and enhance security at the camp.

Five members of the People's Mujahedeen were killed by the mortar rounds and rockets, according to two Iraqi security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The attack also wounded at least 40 members of the group and three Iraqi policemen, they said.

The US State Department put the toll at six dead and dozens injured.

The MEK, whose leadership is based in Paris, said in a statement that six people were killed and more than 100 wounded.

The mortar fire struck Camp Liberty, where residents from the MEK were moved last year, on Iraq's insistence, from their historic paramilitary camp of the 1980s -- Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border.

One Iraqi security official said about 40 rockets and mortar rounds were fired into the camp, and the MEK gave a similar figure.

The United Nations said its special envoy Martin Kobler had asked Iraqi authorities to "promptly conduct an investigation into this," adding: "We have our monitors on the ground to follow up."

Eliana Nabaa, spokeswoman for the UN mission, said Iraqi officials had told the United Nations that "all those who were injured were hospitalised immediately."

Camp Ashraf was the base that now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein allowed the group to establish in Diyala province in the 1980s, during Iraq's eight-year war with Iran.

The residents are in the process of being resettled, and a US official said in October that the United States and several European countries had agreed to take them in.

The MEK was founded in the 1960s to oppose the shah of Iran, and after the 1979 Islamic revolution that ousted him it took up arms against Iran's clerical rulers.

It says it has now laid down its arms and is working to overthrow the Islamic regime in Tehran by peaceful means.

Britain struck the group off its terror list in June 2008, followed by the European Union in 2009 and the United States in September 2012.

The US State Department holds the group responsible, however, for the deaths of Iranians as well as US soldiers and civilians from the 1970s to 2001, and in its note about delisting the MEK it stressed that it had not forgotten the group's militant past.

A senior US official also said at the time that Washington does "not see the MEK as a viable opposition."

In Washington on Saturday, at a convention of pro-democracy Iranian-Americans, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani called on the United States to take in the camp residents.

"These people can all be removed within hours," said Giuliani. "Planes can be sent immediately. They can be here within a day. We have done far more difficult things than that. It's only about 3,000 people."

Another guest speaker at the convention, former national security advisor General James Jones, said: "Camp Liberty has a name that is not worthy of a prison, which it has become.

"It is the responsibility of all countries of goodwill to ensure that the victimization of the Ashraf refugees is not perpetrated and that this debacle comes to a swift and just conclusion."

Calls for Iranian exiles to be moved to US after attack
Washington (AFP) Feb 9, 2013 - Top former American officials on Saturday condemned an attack on a camp of Iranian exiles in Iraq that left five dead, and urged Washington to allow the residents to take refuge in the United States.

The National Convention for a Democratic Iran, meeting in Washington, also accused the US administration of reneging on promises to protect members of the People's Muhajedeen of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) living in Camp Liberty.

The camp on the western outskirts of Baghdad came under mortar fire early Saturday. It has been home to some 3,000 MEK members since last year, after they moved on Iraq's insistence, from their historic site of the 1980s -- Camp Ashraf, near the Iranian border.

About 1,500 Iranian-Americans at the Washington convention, organized before Saturday's attack, denounced the attack and called for better protection for the residents who are in the process of being resettled in other countries under a UN-led program.

"These people can all be removed within hours," former New York mayor Rudolph Guiliani, who was a guest speaker, told the convention.

"Planes can be sent immediately. They can be here within a day. We have done far more difficult things than that. It's only about 3,000 people."

Another guest speaker, former national security advisor General James Jones, said: "Camp Liberty has a name that is not worthy of a prison, which it has become.

"It is the responsibility of all countries of goodwill to ensure that the victimization of the Ashraf refugees is not perpetrated and that this debacle comes to a swift and just conclusion."

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, the first since the residents moved, clearing the way for the US to remove the group from its list of organizations it deems to be terrorist.

Five members of the People's Mujahedeen were killed by the mortar rounds and rockets, according to two Iraqi security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The MEK, whose leadership is based in Paris, said in a statement that six people were killed and more than 100 wounded.

Jones added America should "welcome a generous number of refugees and in so doing setting the example for the rest of the world."

.


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