- Title: IRAQ: Clashes as Iraq takes control of Iranian exile camp
- Date: 30th July 2009
- Summary: BAGHDAD, IRAQ (JULY 29, 2009) (REUTERS) GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN ALI AL-DABBAGH GIVING STATEMENT TO REPORTERS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN ALI AL-DABBAGH, SAYING: "There is no legal status that compels the Iraqi government to accept the presence of the camp, but we will not force anyone to leave Iraq against their will. We welcome the organisation's (People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI)) announcement of the return of its members to Iran. The situation yesterday was that there were clashes between the Iraqi police and protesters who tried to create a state of unrest to prevent the Iraqi forces from implementing a state of law." JOURNALISTS TAKING NOTES (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN ALI AL-DABBAGH, SAYING: "The Iraqi government is trying to open a police centre inside the camp to impose the authority of law and the authority of the state inside the camp. The Iraqi government does not intend to get into conflict with the residents of the camp, but it will firmly apply the law. We call on and we advise all the residents of the camp not to listen or yield to the demands of some of the heads of this organisation, who are inside the camp and who do not want the best for the members of the organisation. The Iraqi government is committed to all the rules of humanitarian treatment as stated by international laws and has no intention of changing this stance." JOURNALISTS LISTENING AL-DABBAGH WALKING AWAY AFTER GIVING STATEMENT
- Embargoed: 14th August 2009 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVADUWPIY00NBAOJW54NSIKDO9LJ
- Story Text: Iraq's government denied on Wednesday (July 29) that any Iranian exiles had been killed in clashes with security forces when they seized control of their camp, but residents said eight had died and distributed images of bodies.
Iraqi forces took control on Tuesday (July 28) of Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, which for two decades has been home to members of the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), a dissident Iranian group.
An Ashraf resident and lawyer said forces stormed in and shot or beat many people, killing eight and wounding 500. Many others were arrested, he said.
Other Ashraf residents also said Iraqi forces had stormed the camp, where former leader Saddam Hussein gave refuge to opponents of the Iranian government, on Tuesday. Later in evening, they said, security forces open fired on protesters and beat others with rifles.
PMOI footage sent to Reuters showed what appeared to be Iraqi security forces tussling with a crowd of demonstrators.
TV footage and photos obtained by Reuters from a camp resident also showed three bodies with visible gunshot wounds, and other residents having severe head wounds stitched up. It was impossible to verify where or when they were taken.
The Iraqi government has said it will close the camp and expel its 3,500 residents back to Iran or to a third country.
However, speaking to reporters in Baghdad on Wednesday (July 29), government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said this was not the case.
"There is no legal status that compels the Iraqi government to accept the presence of the camp, but we will not force anyone to leave Iraq against their will," he said during a news briefing.
He said that during Tuesday's clashes, some residents had attacked police with knives and rocks.
"The situation yesterday was that there were clashes between the Iraqi police and protesters who tried to create a state of unrest to prevent the Iraqi forces from implementing a state of law," al-Dabbagh added.
While Iraq and the United States deem the PMOI a terrorist group, residents enjoyed some U.S. military protection after the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, but Iraqi forces have gradually taken over.
Al-Dabbagh said the Iraqi government now wanted to bring a state of law and order to the camp.
"The Iraqi government does not intend to get into conflict with the residents of the camp, but it will firmly apply the law," he told reporters.
While Iraqi officials insist they are respecting dissidents' rights, Ashraf residents accuse Iraqi forces of laying siege to it and sometimes blocking the entry of food and medicines.
Iraq's Shi'ite-led government, which includes many former Saddam opponents who were exiled in Iran, has close ties to Tehran and is unsympathetic to the PMOI.
The group began as leftists against Iran's Shah but fell out with Shi'ite clerics who took power in the 1979 revolution.
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