At least 50 Iranian exiles were killed in an early morning attack at their camp north of Baghdad, according to one of the residents in the camp.
The Ashraf resident accused the Iraqi security forces of a massacre.
The attack started unexpectedly at 5 a.m. local time (10 p.m. EDT Saturday) and carried on until late in the afternoon.
The report made headlines because it was said Iraqi security forces tied the Iranian exiles’ hands behind their backs and shot them in the head. A resident of Camp Ashraf who witnessed the attack made the report in a phone interview, requesting anonymity over concerns for his safety.
Iraqi officials acknowledged the deaths but reported that the cause of the incident was infighting between the camp’s residents which the Iranian exiles said was a lie.
Former Iraq President Saddam Hussein allowed the Iranian exiles to set up their paramilitary base at Camp Ashraf in the 1980s. After Hussein was overthrown in the 2003 U.S. invasion, the U.S. military disarmed the Iranian dissidents, promising to protect them.
US Condemns Attack at Camp Ashraf
The US today issued a statement condemning the attack and expressing concern about the terrible events in Iraq.
In her press statement, US Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf, strongly condemned the events at Camp Ashraf.
“Our condolences go out to the families of the victims and those who were injured in today’s violence.” – Ms. Harf
Ms. Harf said the US government is deeply concerned about these reports and they are in regular contact with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), as well as Government of Iraq officials.
The US said it supports UNAMI’s efforts to conduct its own assessment of the situation and called on the Government of Iraq to fully support those efforts.
In addition, the US called on Iraqi authorities to act with urgency to immediately ensure medical assistance to the wounded and to secure the camp against any further violence or harm to the residents.
The US also underscored the responsibility of the Government of Iraq and all relevant stakeholders to ensure the safety and security of residents at both Camps Ashraf and Hurriyah (formerly Liberty).
The Ashraf residents are UN “protected persons,” but neither the UN nor the US have done much to protect them.
The PMOI had been listed as a terrorist group by the US, for many years, even after they renounced terrorism and were unarmed. After a lengthy campaign and much prodding, the “terrorist group” listing was lifted earlier this year by then-US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
US Response to Camp Ashraf Issue
In May 2012, the US addressed the challenges relocating Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty.
In his remarks in Washington DC, Special Advisor on Ashraf, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Ambassador Daniel Fried, said the process of relocating residents to Camp Liberty (renamed to Camp Hurriya) has had challenges.
He cited that each convoy, carrying approximately 400 Ashraf residents, their personal effects, and large quantities of cargo to Hurriya, had been a significant logistical undertaking.
The Iraqi government provided dozens of coach buses and cargo trucks and literally thousands of Iraqi security forces to provide for the convoy’s security on the road, he stated.
According to Mr. Fried, accompanying each convoy were UN human rights monitors, who also observed the screening of residents and property as each convoy loaded from Camp Ashraf providing supposedly neutral reports following each convoy movement.
In addition, Mr. Fried said living conditions at Camp Hurriya have also had challenges.
Camp Hurriya, when under U.S. control, was Camp Liberty, part of the largest coalition base in Iraq, housing thousands of American and coalition forces during military operations in Iraq.
The containerized housing units (CHUs), which the former Ashraf residents now occupy, previously housed US service personnel, he noted.
UNAMI, with active U.S. support, was supposed to work at high levels with the Iraqi government to ensure the welfare of the residents was not compromised and to resolve issues that arise.
In February 2012, nearly 400 residents of Camp Ashraf arrived at the new Camp.
In December 2011, the Residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq reluctantly declared readiness for relocation of the first group of Camp Ashraf residents. They were moving from Camp Ashraf, to Camp Liberty with their vehicles and moveable belongings.
Situated in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, Camp Ashraf housed members of the group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran. The Iraqi Government repeatedly stated its intention to close down the camp by 31 December and to transfer residents to another location until countries willing to accept them for resettlement were found.
The important agreement stipulated providing temporary relocation and eventual resettlement of the more than 3,000 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
The PMOI is the main opposition and threat to the Iranian mullahs. Their Camp was attacked by Maliki forces on several occasions. The last attack led to a bloodbath; 33 killed by direct precision shooting and US-profided Humvees ramming unarmed residents. 325 were wounded and 6 were taken as hostages by Iraqi thugs.