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Dissidents blame camp attack on Iraq

Government denies MeK assertion

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An Iranian dissident group says Iraq's government had a hand in a rocket and mortar attack on its refugee camp north of Baghdad where seven people were killed and dozens injured earlier this month.

But Iraqi and U.S. officials said there is no evidence to support those allegations by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK).

The MeK said it has proof that Iraq's Interior Ministry and police helped transfer the rockets in government ambulances before the Feb. 9 attack on Camp Liberty.

"This is a false allegation," said an Iraqi official who spoke on background. "After the fall of [Saddam Hussein's] regime, Iraq was very keen to establish the state of law, and the Ministry of Interior is the responsible authority for protecting and imposing the law, and is not the opposite."

Iraq's government "strongly condemned the attack on Camp Liberty and considered it a terrorist act" and wants to do "whatever is necessary to ensure the security and safety of the camp and its residents," the Iraqi official said. "The government of Iraq has also [taken] quick actions to treat the injured, and launched an immediate investigation to find out the perpetrators behind the attack."

An Iraqi physician and three Iraqi policemen were injured in the attack.

A U.S. official who spoke on background said there is no proof that the Iraqi government was involved in the attack.

"Quite to the contrary, the Iraqi government has been working diligently and patiently" with the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees since last year "to address concerns at the camp and advance the cause of resettlement," the U.S. official said.

The MeK said its network inside Iran has gathered proof that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the attack during a meeting of the Supreme National Security Council in late January.

Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the MeK, said that the Quds Force, a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, carried out the attack with help from Iraq's Shiite-led government.

Located near Baghdad's international airport, Camp Liberty is the temporary home for the Iranian dissidents who strive to overthrow Iran's theocratic regime.

The U.N.'s refugee agency is interviewing camp residents to determine their eligibility for refugee status and for resettlement in other countries.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants the Iranian dissidents out of his country, which has grown closer to Iran since U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011.

Saddam Hussein gave the MeK refuge in Iraq in the 1980s. After the Iraqi dictator was overthrown in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, American forces disarmed the dissidents, who had renounced violence in 2001.

There are any number of potential culprits who could have carried out the attack, said Kenneth Katzman, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Congressional Research Service.

"The attack was clearly carried out by people who are in line with policies both of the government of Iran and of Maliki. It's a distinction without that much difference," Mr. Katzman said. "You've got to ask, 'Who dislikes the MeK?' Obviously, pro-Iranian Shiites dislike the MeK. So I think we can safely assume that whoever attacked [Camp Liberty] was either pro-Iranian, pro-Maliki or of Shiite origin."

"These are all people who share the same objective, which is to be against the MeK and to try to get them out of Iraq," he said.

Iraqi security forces clashed with the Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf, the MeK's former home north of Baghdad.

Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups operate in southern Iraq and in Baghdad. The State Department has designated one of the groups, the Kata'ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), as a foreign terrorist group.

The MeK also said Kata'ib Hezbollah was involved in the Camp Liberty attack.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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