The Obama administration condemned as an “unprovoked terrorist attack” a rocket assault on a camp for Iranian dissidents in Iraq that killed two people and injured more than three dozen on Saturday.
A spokesman for the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, blamed the attack on the Iranian regime.
“Dozens of 107 mm rockets hit the camp even as Iran conducts its sham election,” Shahriar Kia, an MeK spokesman, said in a phone interview from Camp Liberty, the makeshift camp near Baghdad’s international airport where the Iranian dissidents are housed.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry described the attack as “brutal, senseless, and utterly unacceptable.”
“We are consulting with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to ascertain the full extent of this unprovoked terrorist attack,” he said.
The Obama administration has, “at the highest levels” personally urged the government of Iraq to “render all possible medical assistance to the victims and ensure the safety of the camp’s residents, consistent with its commitments and obligations,” Mr. Kerry said.
The Obama administration also called on the Iraqi government to investigate the attack and bring the terrorists responsible to justice.
Two U.N. officials condemned the attack and called on the Iraqi government to assist and protect the camp residents.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler and the country representative for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Claire Bourgeois, said they are “deeply concerned that today’s tragic violence has occurred despite their repeated requests to the government of Iraq to provide Camp Liberty and its residents with protective measures, including T-Walls.”
The camp has been attacked with missiles twice before — on Feb. 9 and April 29.
The MeK, which seeks to overthrow Iran’s theocratic regime, has blamed previous attacks on the Quds Force, a paramilitary arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group that operates in Iraq, was linked to the Feb. 9 attack.
Iraq has witnessed a spike in violence over the past few months. The U.N. said more than 1,000 people were killed May, making it the deadliest month since the height of the militancy five years ago.
Saddam Hussein gave the MeK refuge in Iraq in the 1980s.
The MeK was responsible for terrorist attacks in Iran in the 1970s that killed several U.S. military personnel and civilians, according to the State Department. The group denies any role in the deaths of U.S. military personnel.
The Obama administration in September took the MeK off the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, where it had been placed in 1997 as the Clinton administration sought to open negotiations with Iran.
The U.S. decision to delist the MeK was motivated in part by the group’s cooperation to relocate from Camp Ashraf, their base north of Baghdad, to Camp Liberty under a U.N.-brokered deal in December.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is interviewing Camp Liberty residents to determine their eligibility for refugee status.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants the Iranian dissidents out of Iraq and the interviews are a necessary step to resettle them in other countries.
On May 31, 30 residents of Camp Liberty were relocated to Albania.
The rocket attack on Camp Liberty on Saturday should serve as a reminder to other countries to “come forward with serious offers to resettle Camp Liberty residents outside Iraq,” said Mr. Kobler.
Mr. Kerry said the U.S. is committed to assisting the Iraqi government and UNAMI quickly relocate the residents of Camp Liberty outside Iraq.
“We must find a permanent and long term solution that ensures their safety,” he said.
Mr. Kia said the attack added urgency to the MeK’s demand that the remaining residents of Camp Liberty should immediately be transferred back to Camp Ashraf, which is equipped with bomb shelters and bunkers.
• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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