Saturday, 12 June 2010

AFP: Iran troops twice cross border to fight rebels: Iraq Kurds

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — Iranian troops have crossed into Iraq twice in three days amid clashes with Kurdish rebels in the Qandil mountains near the border, a security spokesman said Saturday.

The incursions, which both occurred after Iran's ambassador to Baghdad was summoned to the foreign ministry over the issue, came during a series of clashes in recent days with the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

"Iranian forces, two days ago (Thursday), entered... Iraqi territory in the Haji Omran area" in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, a spokesman for the region's peshmerga former rebel security force told AFP.

"The Iranian soldiers numbered more than 30, and were combined with armoured vehicles and heavy weaponry," Major General Jabbar Yawar said.

Yawar said the Iranian troops penetrated two kilometres (just over a mile) into Iraqi territory, two days after they crossed three kilometres (two miles) over the border in similar clashes with the PJAK.

In recent weeks, Iran has repeatedly shelled suspected PJAK rear-bases in the border area. It has also carried out helicopter assaults across the frontier.

In a statement on May 31, the foreign ministry said it had separately summoned the ambassadors of Iran and Turkey over cross-border attacks by Tehran and Ankara against Kurdish rebel movements.

"The ministry expressed its strong concern over the two states' actions in the form of bombardment and air strikes along the border," the statement said.

It added: "The ministry called on both countries to cease these violations in future because they have a negative impact on the friendly relations between our countries."

Turkey on May 20 conducted its own bombardment of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) bases in northern Iraq.

A May 31 rocket strike on a naval base killed six Turkish soldiers. A news agency close to the PKK said it had been claimed by the rebel group.

The PJAK is closely allied with the PKK which has been fighting for self-rule in eastern Turkey since 1984 and is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.

Last month, Iranian troops clashed with Iraqi border guards after mistaking them for rebel fighters. An Iraqi guard officer was captured but later released.

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