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Iran Shells Iraq's Kurdish Region

Despite a recent announcement by Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, saying Iranian and Iraqi security officials signed a border security pact, there are ongoing reports Iran is shelling the border areas in the Kurdish region of Iraq. VOA's Brian Padden recently visited the Kurdish village, Haji Umran, on the Iraq-Iran border.

The mountain village, Haji Umran, is a transit point for trade between the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Iran.

The surrounding countryside is dotted with farms and herds of sheep and goats. During the day, it is a quiet and peaceful village. But Ali Karter Hussein, a teacher in Haji Umram, says, for the past few months, Iranian forces have been shelling the border area at night.

He says the Iranians shell almost every night, using strong spotlights to spot targets.

Haji Umran Mayor Ahmed Hamad-Amin says, so far, only some livestock has been killed. He recently met with security forces on the Iranian side of the border.

He says the Iranians say they will halt the shelling, at some point, but, for now, they have a reason to fire.

The shelling by Iran security forces is believed to be an attempt to hunt down Kurdish rebels living in the mountains. In recent months, there have been reports Iranian forces have clashed with Kurdish rebels in northwestern Iran. The insurgents are believed to be linked to Turkey's separatist Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK.

The director of the foreign relations office of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq, Fala Mustafah says Iraqi Kurdistan is being blamed for separatist movements within Turkey and Iran.

"We do not want the PKK issue to be an excuse for any incursion into Iraqi Kurdistan territories. Unfortunately we have become the scapegoat for some of these things that have happened," he said. "But definitely the majority of the PKK are in Turkey and we don't deny that a number of them are in the tough mountainous triangle area between Iran, Turkey and Iraq. But we want to make sure that our policy is not to allow anyone to use our territories to launch offensive against any foreign neighbors."

Mustafah says the Kurdish Regional government hopes to resolve these issues, through peaceful negotiation rather than military confrontation.