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FACTBOX: Who are the People's Mujahideen of Iran?

(Reuters) - Here are some details about the group:


-- The People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) -- also known as the Mujahideen Khalq Organisation (MKO) -- is the main faction within the exiled opposition umbrella organisation, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

-- The PMOI, which has had bases in Iraq since the 1980s, began as a group of Islamist leftists opposed to Iran’s late Shah but fell out with Shi’ite clerics who took power after the 1979 revolution.

-- The NCRI in 2002 exposed Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water plant at Arak, which the West say are key elements in Iran’s plan to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies having any such ambitions.

-- The PMOI’s leader, Massoud Rajavi, has not been seen for years. His wife, Maryam Rajavi, has been named by NCRI as Iran’s president-elect.

-- The group was one of the largest factions immediately after the 1979 revolution. But diplomats and analysts say it is difficult to determine the level of support for the group now inside Iran, where many Iranians cannot forgive it for siding with Saddam Hussein during Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.


-- The U.S. State Department has said the PMOI assassinated at least six U.S. citizens as part of the struggle to overthrow the Shah, backed the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and opposed freeing U.S. hostages. The U.S. government designated the PMOI a “terrorist” organisation in 1997.

-- In the 1980s, the group’s leaders fled to France and also collaborated with Iraq during the 1980-88 war with Iran.

-- In April 1992, the PMOI carried out attacks on 13 Iranian embassies around the world, causing significant damage.

-- In February 2000, the group launched a mortar attack against a complex in Tehran that housed the offices of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran, and then president Mohammad Khatami.

--In December 2007 the NCRI said Iran had shut down its programme in 2003 but restarted it a year later.

-- In Jan 2009 European states agreed to remove the exiled PMOI from an EU list of banned terrorist groups.

-- Tens of thousands of NCRI supporters rallied outside Paris last June to denounce the government in Tehran and the June 12 disputed presidential election in Iran.

-- Last September the NCRI said that it had identified two previously unknown sites where it said Iran was working on developing high-explosive detonators for use in atomic bombs. The group said that the sites were part of a unit affiliated with Iran’s ministry of defence called “Research Centre for Explosion and Impact,” known under its Farsi language abbreviation Metfaz. The NCRI’s information could not be verified.


-- The U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed PMOI bases during the invasion of Iraq. U.S. forces declared the exiles “protected persons” after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

-- Iraq said this month it wanted the 3,500 or so Iranian opposition exiles based at Camp Ashraf north of Baghdad to leave the country. Iraqi forces took over responsibility for the camp on January 1 from U.S. troops, who had been guarding it.

Sources: Reuters/Janes World Insurgency/ U.S. State Dept./

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit