Kurdish rebels deny Iranian forces entered Iraq
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq – Kurdish rebels fighting Iran's government from bases across the border in Iraq denied Monday that Iranian forces carried out a cross-border raid.
Iran's state television reported Sunday that Revolutionary Guard forces crossed into Iraq and killed 30 fighters from a group involved in a deadly bomb attack last week at a military parade in northwestern Iran. Iranian officials blamed the bombing on Kurdish rebels, though most Kurdish groups condemned the attack and there has been no claim of responsibility.
Sherzad Kamanger, a spokesman for Iranian Kurdish rebels based in Iraq's Qandil Mountains, said Monday that there have been no recent battles with Iranian forces, though there was some Iranian artillery shelling late Sunday on four border villages that injured one civilian.
"We have not engaged in any clashes with the Iranian force since nearly 20 days ago," Kamanger told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Jabbar Yawir, a spokesman for Iraq's Kurdish forces, also said no Iranian troops crossed the border.
The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said he could not confirm whether a cross-border raid had taken place.
"We are working to find out if there's any truth to it, but I know of nothing that would say this is a true report," Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said in a conference call with reporters in Washington.
Kamanger denied the rebel group had any role in Wednesday's parade attack, which killed 12 women and children among the spectators in the Iranian city of Mahabad. The city is at the heart of Iran's northwestern Kurdish region, near the border with Iraq.
Kurdish rebels have fought Iranian forces in the area for years, but have generally not targeted civilians. They sometimes operate from bases in friendly territory in Iraq's semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan region.
Kamanger said Iran's government was seeking to defame the Kurds by blaming them for the bombing.
The parade was one of several held around the country to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war.
Iranian Gen. Abdolrasoul Mahmoudabadi of the Revolutionary Guard told Iranian state TV on Sunday that the "terrorists" behind the attack were killed in a clash Saturday "beyond the border" and that his forces were still in pursuit of two men who escaped the ambush.
Government forces in Iraq, Iran and Turkey have all periodically battled with the Kurdish minorities straddling their borders. They fear the groups are seeking to unite territory in all three nations to form an independent Kurdish homeland.
Iran's Kurdish rebels say they are fighting for greater rights for their minority community.
Associated Press writer Sagar Meghani contributed to this report from Washington.