Rockets and mortar rounds struck a refugee camp for Iranian exiles next to Baghdad’s international airport today, killing six people and wounding about 40, police and UN officials said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack. He urged Iraqi officials to investigate and bring the attackers to justice, noting that the government is responsible for the safety of the camp residents.
The government said it launched an investigation, but that there was little it can do to shield the camp, which is home to about 3,100 people, from rocket attacks. It asked the international community to speed up the resettlement of the refugees.
The camp houses members of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK, the militant wing of a Paris-based Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Iraq’s Shiite-led pro-Iranian government considers MEK a terrorist group and is eager to have it out of the country.
The refugee camp, located in a former American military base known as Camp Liberty, is meant to be a temporary station while the United Nations works to find host countries for the refugees. They are unlikely to return to Iran because of their opposition to the regime.
Camp spokesman Shahriar Kia said 35 rockets and mortar rounds struck the camp. He said more than 100 people were hurt.
Kia, the camp spokesman, alleged that Iraqi authorities refused to let the wounded be taken to area hospitals for treatment.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi denied the claim.
The UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, said about 40 people who were wounded were taken to hospitals shortly after the attack. Kobler said five people died at the camp and that a sixth apparently died later in a hospital.
Before being moved to the Baghdad area camp, members of the MEK lived in another camp, called Ashraf, in northeastern Iraq. Camp Ashraf was twice raided by Iraqi security forces trying to impose control, leaving more than three dozen people dead.
Iraq’s government says MEK members are living in Iraq illegally.
“We call on the international community to expedite the procedures ... to find countries for them as quickly as possible,” said al-Moussawi, the government spokesman.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, condemned the attack and noted that camp residents were asylum seekers requesting refugee status and are entitled to international protection.
Kobler said about half the camp residents have been cleared for resettlement in principle, and that he believes the first group can leave soon.
The MEK, which is also called the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, opposes Iran’s clerical regime and has carried out assassinations and bombings in Iran. It fought in the 1980s alongside Saddam Hussein’s forces in the Iran-Iraq war, and several thousand of its members were given sanctuary in Iraq by Saddam.