AFP: Iran has confirmed for the first time it has been firing artillery shells on camps of Kurdish militants inside northern Iraq, saying the local authorities had not listened to its warnings. TEHRAN (AFP) Iran has confirmed for the first time it has been firing artillery shells on camps of Kurdish militants inside northern Iraq, saying the local authorities had not listened to its warnings.
The militant Kurdish separatist group PJAK — linked to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — has been behind a string of deadly attacks on security forces in northwestern Iran in recent months.
“Some of their bases are 10 kilometres (six miles) deep inside Iraqi territory so this is part of our natural right to secure our borders,” said General Yayha Rahim Safavi, military adviser to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Of course we issued warnings to the Iraqi government and told them to take them (the rebels) away from the border and respect its obligations,” Safavi said in an interview with Iran’s English language channel Press TV late Saturday.
“But unfortunately the Kurdistan region, the northern part of Iraq, did not listen, so we feel entitled to target military bases of PJAK and they have been under our artillery fire,” he added, according to the channel’s English translation.
Safavi, the former head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, gave no details of when the firing had taken place or if it was continuing.
Iraqi Kurdish officials said last month that hundreds of Iraqi Kurds had fled remote mountain villages near the country’s eastern frontier after Iranian gunners targeted separatist guerrilla bases.
But Vice Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostafavi vehemently denied on September 3 that Iran had shelled rebel bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Safavi said that “groups of four to five” Kurdish militants from PJAK (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) at a time moved across the border from their bases in Iraq to carry out attacks in western Iran.
“They set off bombs and they create insecurity. And I think it is part of our natural right to fight such rogue counter-revolutionary armed groups as they are creating insecurity.”
Earlier this month, seven members of the Iranian security forces were killed in a shootout with “rebels” in the western province Kermanshah, which has a substantial Kurdish population.