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Iranian Mortars Bombard Kurds in Iraq
Maliki Demands Iran Explain Recent Attacks, Refrain From More
08/27/2007 6:46 PM ET
KURTAK, IRAQ: A PKK guerilla carries supplies as he heads to a base in the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.
David Furst/AFP/Getty
KURTAK, IRAQ: A PKK guerilla carries supplies as he heads to a base in the mountains of northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.

An onslaught of artillery fell on northern Iraqi villages Monday, beginning a second week of bombardment just as Prime Minister Maliki reportedly had an official note of protest delivered to the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, demanding clarification for the reasons behind the attacks.

The spike in border activity began last week with helicopters dropping leaflets over border villages, warning locals to leave the area or face Iranian attack. The leaflets were printed in Kurdish, with the words "The Islamic Republic of Iran" across the top and bottom.

Tehren blames Iraq for sheltering Kurdish fighters who train in Kurdistan to attack across the border inside Iran--tensions that occasionally escalate into mini-flares of cross-border activity. Iran has denied dropping the leaflets, but Kurdish media has reported repeated Iranian shelling throughout the past week.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Monday that the government was looking into the reports, but questioned their accuracy. "Validity of the news is under scrutiny. But what we are witnessing is that insecurity in Iraq has made Iran's border provinces insecure for several times," Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said.

Though Hosseini did not confirm reports of the attacks, he did appear to deliberately justify them, saying, “The terrorists and drug smugglers are still active in the border areas. Many weapons have been imported to Iran and many Iranian policemen have sacrificed their lives fighting against terrorists and drug smugglers on the Iran-Iraq border.”

Turkey has occasionally launched its own volley of mortars into northern Iraq, and Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul voiced support for Iran's reported offensive last week.

"Unfortunately, terrorists have the ability to operate in Iraq's north due to a power vacuum in Iraq," Gül said, adding "Every country has the right to defend its borders and take legitimate measures for its own security."

Prime Minister Maliki, who recently visited both countries and made strengthening ties and improving security cooperation a major focus of his regional diplomacy efforts, struck back at his neighbors on Monday.

Maliki informed a press conference: "The bombardments by Iran and Turkey are violations of Iraq's sovereignty. We will not allow these violations, but this must come through diplomatic channels."

Maliki said Iraq's foreign ministry would "ask the two countries to refrain from these actions."


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