June 1, 2010 / 5:30 PM / 8 years ago

Iraq's north says villagers flee Iranian shelling

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region said on Tuesday dozens of families had been displaced in days of shelling by Iranian forces pursuing Kurdish rebels in the border region.

Senior Kurdish officials denied reports that Iranian troops had entered Iraqi territory in pursuit of rebels from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, PJAK.

They said more than 100 families had fled shelling over the past week along the northern stretch of Iraq’s border with Iran.

“Iranian troops did not make any incursion into the Kurdistan region, but the villages near the border have faced artillery shelling for the past week, displacing some 120 families from Joman near the border,” said Major General Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga security forces.

Iranian forces frequently clash with rebels of the PJAK, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which took up arms in 1984 for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.

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

On May 20, Turkish military aircraft bombed Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq in an operation said to be the largest in 18 months, Turkish military sources said. They said four PKK guerrillas were killed.

Iraqi Kurdistan said Iran had also shelled the region during the Turkish operation, and on Sunday Kurdish officials said one woman was killed and another wounded in shelling.

Abdulla Ibrahim, mayor of the border town of Sanka Sar, said ten families had been displaced by heavy shelling on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) also denied reports of an Iranian incursion.

“There is no Iranian troops incursion,” said Kawa Mahmoud. “We as a government condemn this shelling. We are doing our best for the immediate cessation of these operations and we will offer help to the displaced families.”

Reporting by Sherko Raouf in Sulaimaniya and Shamil Aqrawi in Arbil; Writing by Matt Robinson

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