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Rights Group Accuses Iran of Harming Iraqi Civilians


A U.S. human rights group has accused Iran of harming civilians while carrying out artillery attacks and other military operations against members of an Iranian Kurdish rebel group inside northern Iraq.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch says in a report released Tuesday that in late May, Iran intensified attacks targeting the Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, or PJAK, in an area that includes dozens of Kurdish villages in northern Iraq.

The report says the attacks displaced more than 500 families, wounded an unknown number of villagers, and killed a teenage girl.

Human Rights Watch also quotes Iraqi villagers as saying that Iranian border guards have targeted their livestock and sometimes fired at the villagers themselves.

The report says villagers, Iraqi government officials and security forces were "adamant" that PJAK forces had never been in the areas attacked by Iranian forces.

Human Rights Watch says it saw no evidence of PJAK activity in and around the communities it visited in northern Iraq.

At the beginning of June, a senior official in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Jabar Yawar, said Iranian troops had crossed into Iraq in pursuit of suspected Kurdish rebels following clashes between Iranian security forces and PJAK.

Several days later, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari voiced concern about Iran's shelling of alleged Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq during a phone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

Zebari told VOA Kurdish service the shelling would affect the friendly relations between Iraq and Iran and said Iranian forces should end their military maneuvers near Iraq's northern border.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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