Iran threatens to attack Iraq-based Kurdish rebels

TEHRAN Mon Jul 11, 2011 12:48pm EDT

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran threatened Monday to take military action against the Iraq-based Kurdish rebel group PJAK, saying the head of Iraq's Kurdistan region had handed the group land without telling the government in Baghdad.

A senior Iranian military official accused Masoud Barzani, the Kurdistan president, of "giving 300,000 hectares of land to the PJAK terrorist group without the knowledge of the central government in Baghdad," the semi-official Fars news agency said.

"Iran reserves its right to target and destroy terrorist bases in the border areas," he said. "This terrorist group carries out operations against the Iranian nation with the support of Iraq's Kurdish regional government."

Iranian media often report clashes in western Iran between security forces and Kurdish guerrillas said to be members of the

Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey and northwest Iran.

Like Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a large Kurdish minority, mainly living in northwest and western areas of the Islamic Republic.

"We will not allow terrorists to nest in Iraq and to carry out attacks against our nation with the support of America and the Zionist regime (Israel)," Fars quoted the unidentified military official as saying.

The official urged Iraq to investigate the issue.

Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war in the 1980s, but since the overthrow in 2003 of Iraq's Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, relations between majority Shi'ite Iraq and predominantly Shi'ite Iran have improved.

Iran is at odds with the United States and its allies over its nuclear program, which the West says is a cover for building nuclear bombs.

Tehran denies the allegation, saying it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity for its growing population.

(Writing by Mitra Amiri, editing by Tim Pearce)

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