July 13, 2010 / 12:10 PM / 10 years ago

Iran shelling displaced hundreds in north Iraq -HRW

* HRW says attacks wounded "unknown number of villagers"

* Iran has denied its troops crossed Iraqi border

DUBAI, July 13 (Reuters) - Iranian attacks against Kurdish guerrillas that intensified in May have displaced hundreds of families on the Iraqi side of the border, wounded villagers and killed one teenage girl, a U.S.-based rights group said.

Human Rights Watch, which said it visited the affected area in northern Iraq in June, urged Iran to take "all feasible precautions" to spare civilians at risk from artillery bombardment and other military operations in the border region.

Iranian security forces often clash with Kurdish rebels in the Islamic Republic’s northwest, which borders Iraq.

In early June, Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region said Iran had been shelling the border region for more than a week, in pursuit of guerrillas from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

Iran denied that its troops had crossed the border to pursue rebels from PJAK, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey. Iran considers PJAK a terrorist group.

In statement released on Monday, Human Rights Watch said about 500 families had fled their Iraqi border villages since June 3 to crowded tent camps, joining about 250 families who had fled Iranian shelling in previous months.

"The Iranian attacks ... intensified in late May and have led to the displacement of more than 500 families, wounded an unknown number of villagers, and killed a teenage girl," Human Rights Watch said.

It said the attacks were directed against PJAK but that villagers, government officials and Iraqi security forces "were adamant" that guerrilla forces were not in those areas.

Like Iraq and Turkey, Iran has a large Kurdish minority, mainly living in the country’s northwest and west. Iran is a mainly Shi’ite Muslim country, but most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

On Saturday, Iraqi officials said Turkish warplanes bombed sites in northern Iraq, wounding one civilian and damaging property.

Turkey has conducted a number of aerial raids on what it suspects are PKK sites in recent weeks after the rebels called off a 14-month one-sided truce on June 1 and stepped up attacks on army targets. (Writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by David Stamp)

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