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Iraq: Ashraf camp victims killed by own guards

Deaths resulting from an Iraqi army raid on an Iranian opposition camp on its soil were caused by the camp’s own guards firing on residents attempting to escape, an Iraqi spokesman said Thursday.

The comments from Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh came shortly after a United Nations spokesman in New York said 34 people were killed in the April 8 raid on Camp Ashraf, the residence of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), in Diyala province north of Baghdad.
"Our Iraqi security forces believe that this (the deaths) has been done by their (the PMOI) guards killing those who were willing to escape from the camp," Dabbagh said in a text message to AFP, adding that the government was investigating the issue.

"Similar methods have been used before by them."

Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq earlier told AFP in New York: "We are aware of 34 bodies at Camp Ashraf and nearby."

A spokesman for the camp gave the same death toll, but Iraqi security and hospital officials have said three died.

The PMOI used Camp Ashraf, which houses some 3,500 people, as a base for launching attacks on Iran during the rule of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but US forces disarmed the group after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Dabbagh also said that Iraq was willing to provide "all logistical support to facilitate the desires of Camp Ashraf residents who want to leave Iraq."

On Monday, Dabbagh said that the PMOI had to leave Iraq by the end of the year.

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