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Iranian Helicopters Attack Iraqi Kurdish Border Region

Kurdistan's Zagros TV announced the raids by Iranian helicopters in the border region and quoted Kurdish officials as saying that it was the first time that combat helicopters have been used during months of sporadic border clashes. A Kurdish military spokesman said the helicopters did not violate Iraqi airspace but attacked by flying parallel to the border.

Border officials said Iran's military shelled the PJAK positions before the helicopters struck. Iran has targeted the PJAK with artillery in the past but never followed with air assaults.

Iran has long complained about cross-border activities of the PJAK (Free Life Party of Kurdistan) which normally operates further to the north.

Turkey bombed positions of the terrorist PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party), along its border with Iraqi Kurdistan, several times, this past week. Nine Turkish soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb blast, for which the PKK claimed responsibility, Wednesday.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Turkish President Abdullah Gul agreed to a joint demand that the PKK throw down its arms, during a recent visit by President Gul to Baghdad. The PKK rejected that demand.

26 people were also killed during fierce cross-border gunbattles between Iranian police and Kurdish separatists along the Iraqi-Iranian border, just a week ago. 18 of the dead were Iranian policemen.

Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group said that Iran has been trying to quash PJAK rebels along its border for quite some time:

"The Iranians have been taking action against PJAK, the Kurdish guerilla group from Iran that has worked in cooperation with the PKK, the Turkish-Kurdish group, for some time, and the latest attack is consistent with that, and whether the Iranians shell the PJAK positions or they carry out helicopter attacks in the area where the PJAK is operating doesn't make a huge difference," he said. "Now, some Kurds in Iraq are obviously going to be affected by this. The people living in the border area have suffered a long time from these attacks and it's a big problem for them, but they also are not capable of getting rid of PJAK and the Kurdish regional government is equally incapable of ejecting PJAK from this area," he added.

Western Iran has a large Kurdish population, and Iranian security forces have clashed repeatedly with PJAK separatists, operating out of northern Iraq, in recent years.