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Three Iranian Guardsmen die after rebel clash-report

TEHRAN, May 26 (Reuters) - Three Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen have died from wounds sustained during a clash with rebels near the Turkish border, an Iranian news agency said on Monday, in an apparent reference to Kurdish guerrillas.

The semi-official Fars News Agency quoted a Guards spokesman as saying the fighting took place on Saturday. Iranian media had earlier said nine Kurdish rebels were killed on that day, but Fars did not make clear if it was during the same clash.

"These three Guardsmen were wounded two days ago in clashes with rebels ... and attained martyrdom after they were transported to hospital," spokesman Reza Rezvani told Fars.

Iranian forces have often clashed in border areas with rebels from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is fighting for a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey.

Analysts say PJAK, which Tehran brands a terrorist group, has bases in northeastern Iraq from where they operate against Iran.

Iraq's Kurdistan region borders both Turkey and Iran, and includes remote and rugged mountain ranges where Kurdish rebels from both the PKK and PJAK factions are holed up.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of 40,000 people since 1984, when the group took up arms. Ankara, like the European Union and the United States, considers it a terrorist organisation. (Reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Hashem Kalantari; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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