.. An Iranian opposition group said Monday that Iraqi troops tightened their siege of a camp north of Baghdad where about 3,500 of their members have been based for about 20 years.
The People’s Mujahedeen said Iraqi troops have prevented food and fuel from reaching Camp Ashraf for the past six days — despite written guarantees by the Iraqi government that it would guarantee human rights of the residents.
But Iraqi national security adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie branded the allegations "totally baseless." He said People’s Mujahedeen members had taken over a building belonging to the Iraqi army and were preventing soldiers from entering it.
"They have a huge propaganda machine all over the world and are known to exaggerate things," added al-Rubaie, whom the People’s Mujahedeen said was behind the alleged crackdown.
Iran and the United States consider the People’s Mujahedeen a terrorist group and Tehran has stepped up pressure on the Iraqis to close the camp. Iraq took over security for the camp from the U.S. on Jan. 1.
But the Iraqi government promised the U.S. that it would not force the group’s members to leave against their will.
The People’s Mujahedeen opposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi during the 1979 revolution but fell out with the clerical regime that replaced him. Saddam Hussein allowed the group to set up a camp during the Iran-Iraq war for staging raids across the border inside Iran.
U.S. troops disarmed the fighters and confined them to Camp Ashraf after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam.
Also Monday, residents of the Kurdish town of Halabja marked the 21st anniversary of the March 16-17 poison gas attack by Saddam’s forces against Kurdish separatists.
The 1988 attack killed thousands of people and was the biggest use of chemical weapons against a civilian populated area in history.
Local officials and victims’ relatives placed wreaths on a monument to the dead.
"The anniversary has become etched in the memory of many people," said Aras Abbadi, who lost 21 relatives in the attack. "Every year, we wait for the anniversary and condemn that deplorable attack committed by a dictatorial regime against its own people."
Another participant, Mariam Saleh, 59, pointed to a photograph on display that shows a truck full of victims.