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BorderWatch:Iran
ON THE BRINK?
Northern Iraqis Fleeing From Iranian Leaflets
Notes Warn Locals of Forthcoming Onslaught, Some Shelling Reported
08/22/2007 11:41 AM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: A Kurdish fighter patrols an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders, 12 June 2007.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: A Kurdish fighter patrols an area in the Iraqi part of Qandil Mountains near their headquarters on the Iraqi-Iranian-Turkish borders, 12 June 2007.

Hundreds of villagers living in northern Iraqi villages have reportedly fled in fear after helicopters dropped leaflets Monday evening warning of a forthcoming Iranian attack within 48 hours. The Kurdish regional government is investigating the leaflets, and local officials have reported increased shelling coming from their Iranian neighbors in recent days.

Iran occasionally shells border areas of northern Iraq, targeting elements of the PEJAK--the anti-Iranian version of the PKK Kurdish rebel group--but leaflets are something new.

Villagers near Qandil and Haji Omaran reported the leaflets were thrown from helicopters Monday evening, warning local residents to flee the area to avoid coming under Iranian fire. The leaflets were printed in Kurdish, with the words "The Islamic Republic of Iran" across the top and bottom.

"They do not carry an official stamp of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iranian Defense Ministry," said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the regional Kurdish government. "These leaflets caused many people leave their homes," he added.

The leaflets said the offensive would take place around the villages of Qandil, Haji Omaran, Isaw and the town of Qal'at Dizah, 325 kilometers north of Baghdad. Two women have been wounded, livestock killed, farms and orchards set ablaze and homes damaged in the shelling near small villages across a front of about 50 kilometers in the past three days, local officials have said.

PUKmedia.org, the news outlet of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also reported both Iranian and Turkish troops--with tanks, artillery, and military vehicles--deploying in areas along the border, and cutting off electricity during the night in order to move in darkness.

The increase in activity may result from Iran's loss of a helicopter and a number of troops in border operations this past weekend.

On Saturday, the official Iranian news agency (IRNA) said five elements from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were killed and six others wounded when a military helicopter crashed near Qandil mount near the borders with Iraq.

"The crash was due to bad weather circumstances in the area," IRNA quoted a military source as saying.

VOI reports, however, that an opposition group claimed success in shooting down the helicopter.

In a separate Iran-Iraq border development, on Wednesday, Iran announced it had uncovered a separatist group with a cache of weapons and ill intents in Khuzestan, which is located at the southern end of the two countries' shared border. Iranian media reported security forces had arrested a number of suspected members.

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