By Kareem Raheem and Ahmad Rasheed
A mortar attack on an Iranian dissident camp killed three people in Baghdad on Saturday, police sources said, and the Mujahidin-e-Khalq (MEK) group said Iran was probably to blame, with Iraqi complicity.
MEK said two of the camp’s residents were killed and 40 wounded in the attack. An Iraqi died when a stray mortar round hit a residential complex for Baghdad airport employees nearby.
A similar attack on the camp in February killed at least five members of the MEK, which was removed from the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations last year.
MEK calls for the overthrow of Iran’s clerical leaders and fought on Iraq’s side during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
It is seeking to recast itself as a mainstream Iranian opposition force, but is no longer welcome in Iraq under the Shi’ite-led government that came to power after U.S.-led forces invaded and toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is close to Shi’ite Iran and leans on Tehran for political support at home and in the wider Sunni-dominated region, where he has few friends.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but an MEK spokesman said circumstantial evidence pointed to Iran.
“They (the Iranian government) are the main suspect,” the spokesman said. “They have to have some cooperation from Iraqi forces and the government.”
The attack targeted the MEK camp in a former U.S. military compound in western Baghdad, where Iraqi authorities relocated most of the group last year from a base given to it by Saddam.
“At around 11:30 a.m. around five mortar rounds landed in and near the Iranian camp in western Baghdad, killing two Iranian persons and wounding more than 17,” said a police source at Baghdad airport, which is near the camp.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack, calling it “utterly unacceptable” and urging Iraq’s government to bring those responsible to justice, in a statement issued by the State Department on Saturday.
The United Nations intends to seek refugee status for members of the group in other countries. They have complained that conditions at Camp Liberty are poor and that they have not been permitted to bring many personal belongings.
U.N. envoy Martin Kobler condemned Saturday’s attack, saying in a statement that it had occurred despite repeated requests to the Iraqi government to provide the camp and its residents with protective walls and other defenses.