Reports are surfacing from Northern Iraq that the Iranians have used artillery to shell Kurdish villages across the border in Iraq injuring at least three and forcing hundreds to flee their homes.
The attack, which took place on Monday, was in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Haji Omaran region and targeted positions of Iranian Kurdish rebel groups Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (KDPI) and Komala, according to Kurdish officials.
“The shelling started at 5 a.m. [local time] and continued for several hours, forcing hundreds of civilians from nearby villages to flee their homes,” Farzang Ahmad, the local administrator of the Haji Omaran sub-district in Iraqi Kurdistan, told VOA.
Ahmad added that one villager and two rebels were injured and many local farmers’ livelihoods were destroyed as a result of the shelling.
“The Republic of Iran’s justification for the attack is the presence of Iranian Kurdish rebels in the border region with Iraq,” he said.
Iran is home to roughly 10 million Kurds who mostly live in the northwest of the country, close to Iraqi and Turkish Kurdish communities across the border.
Kurdish armed groups, such as KDPI and Komala, have been in conflict with the Iranian government for decades, and are seeking greater autonomy for the areas inhibited by ethnic Kurds. These armed Kurdish groups are widely spread across the 60-kilometer border with neighboring Iraq.
The mountainous nature of the terrain makes it difficult for the Iranian government to control the area.
To diminish the growing activity of the Iranian Kurdish rebels, the country’s military has bombed areas inside the Iraqi border on several occasions in the past, drawing criticism from Iraqi Kurdish officials who charge that civilians bear the brunt of the bombing.
The Iranian government has not commented on Monday’s shelling, but Iraqi Kurdish officials say the bombing was carried out in response to the killing of an Iranian commander and injuring two Iranian border guards during clashes in Kermanshah province on Saturday.
The Iranians are being accused of escalating the violence along the border with Iraq. However, they claim that they are just expelling Kurdish rebels from their borders. Kurdish spokesman believes that this will continue as long as both Iraqi and Iranian Kurdish people have no say in their own homeland.
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Photo courtesy US Army