Seven members of an anti-Iranian terrorist group have been confirmed dead during two-day Iraqi raids on Ashraf Camp in northern Baghdad.
Iraqi security forces took control of the training base of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) at Camp Ashraf — about 60km (37 miles) north of Baghdad — on Tuesday and detained dozens of the members of the terrorist group.
After two days of denying that the clashes had resulted in casualties, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh admitted the death toll but rejected the claim that they had been killed after Iraqi police opened fire on them.
“Five of them threw themselves in front of Iraqi police vehicles,” Dabbagh said. “That’s not death by shooting but by rioting.”
The MKO is notorious for launching a campaign of self immolation in Europe following the 2003 French crackdown on group members suspected of attempts to move their base of operation to the European country.
Dabbagh says MKO snipers killed two others when they tried to flee the camp housing 3,500 Iranian dissidents.
MKO says 12 camp residents died during the two-day clashes.
Al-Dabbagh said that Iraqi forces would continue to maintain their control over the camp.
"The government intends to have control of Ashraf from inside and outside," al-Dabbagh said, adding that the responsibility for the camp’s security is Iraq’s concern and is viewed as "part of government sovereignty".
"They live on Iraqi soil and not on a remote island, and it is the job of Iraqi government to have control on the security situation there," he added.
After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, American troops disarmed MKO members based at the camp. Control of the camp was handed over to Iraqi forces earlier this year.
Iraqi police said that about 800 Iraqi soldiers and more than 200 security forces would be stationed at the camp.
The MKO was founded in Iran in the 1960s, but its top leadership and members fled the country in the 1980s after carrying out a series of assassinations and bombings inside the country.
The group is especially notorious in Iran because they sided with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
The United States, Canada, Iraq, and Iran have all designated the MKO as a terrorist organization.