|The government of Iraqi Kurdistan region has been accused by Iran of backing ethnic Kurdish fighters [Reuters]|
A raid by Iranian troops on a Kurdish fighters’ camp along the border with Iraq has killed at least two fighters and one member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the two sides say.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA said the operation began Saturday night and ended early Sunday near the largely Kurdish town of Sardasht in the mountains of northwestern Iran.
The fighting came less than a week after Iran warned that it reserved the right to attack the bases of the PJAK, or the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
“Since midnight [on Saturday], heavy battles have been ongoing between PJAK and the Iranian army, resulting in injuries among elements of our group,” Sherzad Kamankar, an ethnic Kurdish spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
Kamankar said only two fighters were killed and four wounded, and that Iranian forces had suffered several casualties in the fighting, which took place near the Banjaween area of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Suleimaniyah province.
But IRNA quoted an unnamed source in the Iranian border town of Sardasht as saying five PJAK members and a Revolutionary Guard member were killed in the clashes.
Iran has detained an injured PJAK member and have “full control of the Sardasht border area”, IRNA said.
“The PJAK forces left lots of ammunition and escaped the area.”
Iranian media often report clashes in western Iran between security forces and Kurdish fighters.
Jabbar Yawar, the highest official in the Iraqi Kurdish ministry responsible for the region’s security forces, earlier confirmed Iranian shelling of PJAK bases, but said he received no reports of clashes and had no death toll.
The shelling came despite a warning on July 3 by the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, over the cross-border operations.
Earlier this month, a senior Iranian military official accused Barzani of “giving 300,000 hectares of land to the PJAK terrorist group without the knowledge of the central government in Baghdad”, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said.
“Iran reserves its right to target and destroy terrorist bases in the border areas,” the official was quoted as saying.
“This terrorist group carries out operations against the Iranian nation with the support of Iraq’s Kurdish regional government.”
Like Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a large Kurdish minority, mainly living in northwest and western areas of the Islamic Republic.
Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war in the 1980s, but since the overthrow in 2003 of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein relations have improved.