Iranian forces kill 4 Kurdish separatists: report

TEHRAN Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:05am EST

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian security forces killed four members of a Kurdish separatist group involved in deadly clashes last year in the northwest of the country, state media said on Sunday.

"Personnel of the Intelligence Ministry ambushed and killed a four-member team, affiliated to the Komouleh terrorist group, responsible for the deaths of three security officers in that province in late December," the report on state television said, citing the ministry in West Azerbaijan province.

"Members of this terrorist team were identified in a region near Sardasht and in the course of a surprise operation ... the terrorist team was destroyed."

It was not clear if the report was referring to an Iranian Kurdish Marxist group or the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.

Iran said PJAK was behind the death of a Justice Ministry official in Khoy city in West Azerbaijan last month.

Like Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a large Kurdish minority, mainly living in the Islamic Republic's northwest and west.

Iran sees PJAK, which seeks autonomy for Kurdish areas in Iran and shelters in Iraq's northeastern border provinces, as a terrorist group. The United States, Iran's arch foe, in February last year also branded PJAK as a terrorist organization.

The Islamic Republic is locked in a dispute with the United States and its allies over its nuclear energy program which Washington fears will allow Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies any such intention.

Iran also faces domestic unrest over the re-election last year of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a vote rejected by opposition supporters who have staged street protests.

(Reporting by Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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