Middle East: Tehran and Ankara ignore Saddam's borders to bomb militia camps

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The Independent Online
Turkey and Iran both launched separate air raids into Iraq yesterday. The attacks show that relations between Iraq and its neighbours are as tense as ever. Reuter reports.

Baghdad said eight Iranian planes bombed targets inside Iraq and an Iranian opposition group based in Iraq said two of its camps were attacked in the raid. The Mujahideen Khalq, Iran's main exile opposition group, said the raids targeted two of their camps, one near Kut, 110 miles south- east of Baghdad, and the other near Jalwlaa, 80 miles north-east of the capital.

The group, which advocates the armed overthrow of the clergy-dominated government in Tehran, operates from military camps run in Iraq near the borders with Iran. It has intensified cross-border raids and attacks inside Iran in the past year. Mujahideen Khalq said the raids caused no casualties among its fighters but "there are casualties among Iraqi civilians, because some of the bombs hit Iraqi residential areas near these camps". Mujahideen bases in Iraq have been the target of air and rocket attacks by Iran in the past.

Eric Falt, spokesman for Iraq's UN humanitarian co-ordinator, said: "In light of these reports ... observers involved in the implementation of oil-for-food deal in governorates of Kut and Dailya have been invited to return to Baghdad." About 130 UN observers are monitoring the food distribution programme in Iraq under a UN deal which allows Baghdad oil sales worth $2bn (pounds 1.17bn) over six months in exchange for food and medicine to help Iraqis suffering because of UN trade sanctions imposed for Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The US and its allies imposed no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq to protect Iraqi Kurds in the north and Shia Muslims in the south against possible attack by Baghdad. "Iran ... and another state are making use of the air embargo in the south and the north imposed by America and those who co-operate with it to violate Iraq's sovereignty and airspace and commit military aggression," an Iraqi spokesman said. He urged "the Arab and international community to shoulder their responsibility and condemn the Iranian aggression and press the United States and its allies to put an end to the no-fly zones in north and south Iraq".

Reports of the Iranian attack followed Turkey's fresh offensive in northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels. Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency said Turkish planes bombed bases belonging to Kurdish rebels in the second week of an operation inside northern Iraq.

It said F-4 and F-16 jets, taking off from Turkey early in the morning, raided rebel positions at Khwakurk, Zab, White Mountain, Hayirsiz Mountain and the Sindi Pass and "levelled the camps to the ground".

Turkish television said ground troops had also begun a wide-ranging offensive against the guerrillas and were driving them towards large rebel camps at Zab, near the Turkish-Iraqi border and Khwakurk, close to Iraq's border with Iran.