The Iraqi Army today launched a major assault on a small group of unarmed Iranian dissidents living in the east of the country, killing forty-four and wounding many more. Nearly half of the residents at Camp Ashraf in Diyala province are now confirmed dead, with many more in a critical condition. The dead are members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the largest party in Iran’s democratic parliament in exile.
The attack comes days after the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force; Qassem Suleimani met directly with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and National Security Advisor Faleh al-Fayyadh. The Iranian resistance has charged Suleimani – who was described by the country’s former national security minister as ‘the most powerful man in Iraq’ – with ordering Maliki to attack. Suleimani’s Qod’s Force, which works closely with Lebanese Hezbollah and other regime proxies, has in recent years been engaged in training Iraqi militias, providing fighters to Bashar al-Assad and plotting acts of terror in the Middle East, Europe, the United States and South America.
Commencing at approximately midnight local time, several battalions of the Iraqi Army fired anti-tank weapons at locations around Camp Ashraf in what can only be described as an unprovoked massacre of unarmed civilians. The attack continued for 6 hours, with live ammunition from both mortars and small arms being used. The Iraqi Army also set alight several buildings on the site, further adding to the destruction and confusion as the helpless dissidents attempted to flee.
Sickening details are already beginning to emerge of the attack; the National Council of Resistance of Iran (the NCRI, Iran’s democratic parliament in exile) has released five names of those who were handcuffed and then machine-gunned at close quarters by the Iraqi Army in summary killings by Maliki’s forces. Images of the massacre are starting to be released showing clear signs of execution by small arms at close range (WARNING: Link contains graphic image.).
This is the fifth attack in Iraq on members of the MEK in recent years, the majority of whom are current confined at Camp Liberty outside of Baghdad in conditions described by UN official Tahar Boumedra as being akin to a ‘concentration camp.’ Similar attacks on Camp Liberty have been perpetrated by Iranian regime-backed militia groups in Iraq such as the Mukhtar Army, which in February of this year massacred several in an attack commanded by Brigadier Abdul Reza Shahlai of the Iranian regime’s Qods Force.
UN inspectors are currently being prevented from entering Camp Ashraf to determine what has happened. Perhaps most shockingly however – considering the deadliness of the massacre – is the denial by the Iraqi government that any such action by the Iraqi Army has occurred at all. State-owned Al-Iraqiya TV has, since 12:40PM local time, been issuing reports claiming that no such attack has happened in what seems to be an attempt to cover up the slaughter.
Although previous attacks upon Camp Liberty have undoubtedly been perpetrated with the acquiescence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s administration, last night’s attack on Camp Ashraf, in which the Iraqi Army itself was used, shows a clear escalation in the pressures of the Iranian dissidents in the country, as well as the Prime Minister’s disregard for domestic and international law. The leader of the Iranian resistance, Maryam Rajavi, has called for dissidents at both camps to be transferred to the United States where they will be safe. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), whose former chief, Martin Kobler was recently removed from Iraq after having been shown to have lied about the conditions the Iranian dissidents were being forced to live in, is yet to make a statement.
Update: As of 01/09/14, a full report on the 2013 Camp Ashraf Massacre can be found here.