Iranian troops enter Iraq
18/04/2003 20:56 - (SA)

Khalis, Iraq - Some 3 000 Iranian troops entered Iraq this week and are preparing to attack an armed Iranian opposition outfit based there, a member of the rebel group, the People's Mujahedeen, said on Friday.

"On Wednesday morning and Thursday night about 3 000 Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) entered Iraq," Pary Bakhshai, a senior official with the People's Mujahedeen, told AFP.

The soldiers in armoured personnel carriers entered the regions of Khaneghein and Mandali in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, added Bakhshai, who is in charge of the Ashraf camp, the group's headquarters for northern Iraq.

A US military spokesperson at the Central Command war base in Qatar said he had no information on Iranian troops moving into Iraq.

Bakhshai said the alleged Iranian troop movements showed that "the forces of the mullahs' regime intend to launch new attacks against the Mujahedeen in the coming days."

On Thursday the US military said coalition forces in Iraq were trying to arrange the surrender of the People's Mujahedeen, whose camps had been targeted by the coalition airstrikes.

A senior Mujahedeen official, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chair of the foreign affairs committee of the National Council of the Iranian Resistance, told AFP Thursday, "our commanders are talking to their commanders" in order to reach "a mutually acceptable agreement and understanding."

He said Tehran had taken advantage of the post-war chaos in Iraq to seize control of "key elements" in eastern Iraqi towns, and send elite Revolutionary Guards in civilian clothes into Baghdad and attack the Mujahedeen.

"The common enemy of us, the US forces and the Kurds is the Iranian regime's involvement," he charged. "I hope that all parties will recognise the threat posed by the mullahs."

Iran, the United States and the European Union all consider the People's Mujahedeen a terrorist organisation. The group has frequently claimed responsibility for attacks and assassinations inside Iran but says it only targets the military and other elements of the clerical regime.

The People's Mujahedeen were given sanctuary by now deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in 1986, when he was in the thick of a bloody war with his neighbour, after they were driven out of Iran.