Iranian oppostition reports clashes with Iraq

An Iranian opposition group said today that Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards have crossed into Iraq where the group is based, killing 10 of its members in clashes that lasted several days.

An Iranian opposition group said today that Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards have crossed into Iraq where the group is based, killing 10 of its members in clashes that lasted several days.

The People’s Mujahedeen, an armed Iranian opposition group, said in a statement today that based on orders from Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, “forces from Iran’s revolutionary guards, intelligence forces, and mercenaries have entered Iraq to attack” the group.

The group said 10 of its fighters were killed during the clashes on Saturday in three different towns.

In an earlier statement, the group said Iranian-backed forces inside Iraq killed 18 Mujahedeen members and wounded 43 others during attacks in central Iraq near the Iranian border with Iran on Thursday and Friday.

It was not possible to verify the claims of the Mujahedeen, which wants a secular government to replace the theocratic regime in Iran. The fall of the Iraqi regime has seen the Iraq-based group lose one of its main backers.

State-run Iranian television reported on Sunday that “tens” of Mujahedeen fighters have been killed in clashes with Iraqi fighters near Khaneqin, some 145 kilometres (90 miles) north of Baghdad.

A day earlier, state TV also reported fighting between Mujahedeen and Iraqi fighters on Thursday and Friday in Al-Saadiyah, a desert region some 160 kms (100 miles) north of Baghdad. It said five Iraqis were killed when one of their patrols was attacked late Friday.

It was also impossible to confirm the Iranian TV reports.

Last month, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned Iran not to meddle in the Iraqi war, saying Iranian-backed Shiite opposition militias inside Iraq presented a potential threat to US and Allied troops.

Any entry of Iranian forces into Iraq could be deemed threatening by the US.

US President George W. Bush has accused Iran – along with Iraq and North Korea - of belonging to an “axis of evil,” and there has been intense speculation in the Middle East that Iran might be a future American military target.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said last week Iran had access to People’s Mujahedeen bases in Iraq, but has no intention of chasing them into Iraqi territories.

Over 100 People’s Mujahedeen members have returned to Iran in recent months and handed themselves to the authorities, he said.

The rebel group claims that thousands of Iranian forces are now positioned on the border with Iran and are on ”alert” to move in after its fighters.

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