TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces have taken control of three bases of an Iranian Kurdish opposition group in neighboring Iraq, the state news agency reported Monday.
IRNA quoted Colonel Delavar Ranjbarzadeh, a local commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, as saying “a large number” of members of the Iranian Kurdish opposition group PEJAK have been killed in fierce clashes over the past two days. The clashes are still ongoing.
“Three bases in Iraqi territory were providing assistance to the terrorists. … All the bases have fallen into the hands of the (Iranian) forces,” IRNA quoted Ranjbarzadeh as saying. He said PEJAK rebels have sustained a “heavy and historic defeat.”
PEJAK rebels say Iranian forces entered Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region to fight them. They claim that rebels have killed 53 Iranian soldiers and wounded 43 while only two PEJAK members were killed and seven wounded in clashes.
Iran threatened last week to attack PEJAK bases in Iraqi Kurdistan after accusing the president of the regional government, Massoud Barzani, of providing bases to the group without informing the central government in Baghdad.
PEJAK, which stands in Kurdish for the “Party of Free Life of Kurdistan,” has been involved in sporadic armed clashes with Iranian forces in recent years. The rebels say they are fighting for greater rights for their minority community.
Iran has accused the U.S., Britain and Israel of seeking to incite tension on Iran’s borders to undermine the government in Tehran, charges those countries have denied.
Iran has sporadically bombed PEJAK bases deep inside Iraqi Kurdistan.