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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Iraqi security forces take control of Iranian dissidents' camp

Iraqi security forces have taken control of the base camp of an exiled Iranian militia group, after a two year campaign by Tehran to persuade Baghdad to expel them.

Police officers used water cannons and tear gas to seize the base, known as Camp Ashraf and pledged today to evict up to 3,500 people living there. All are members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) militia, which has in the past been prescribed by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist group.

Most camp residents have been there since they were given refuge by the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, during his decade-long war with Iran. They have vowed to fight plans to relocate them in Europe, or the Iraqi Kurdish north, claiming they would be targeted by Iranian agents.

The raid followed six months of warnings from Iraqi officials and visits by several senior government delegations from Baghdad. "It is not an option to stay there," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. "We will close the camp." More