BAGHDAD (Reuters) - About 15 rockets landed on Thursday near a camp next to Baghdad International Airport holding members of an exiled Iranian opposition group, an Iraqi military spokesman said, and a spokesman for the group said 23 of its members had been killed.
It was not immediately clear whether the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), based in Iraq since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, was the target of the attacks.
So far 23 residents, including at least one woman, had died in the attack and dozens more were injured, Shahin Gobadi, spokesman for the PMOI in Paris, said in a statement. He said at least 80 missiles hit the camp.
The rockets were fired from the Bakriya neighborhood, about 6 km (4 miles) northeast of the airport, joint operations command spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that residents of the camp were killed and injured in the attack, but he did not say how many.
He said the U.S. government had been in touch with senior Iraqi officials to ensure they provide “all possible medical and emergency assistance to the victims.”
Kerry also urged the Iraqi government to increase security at the camp and find those responsible for the attack.
Police sources said six Katyusha rockets had landed inside the perimeter of the airport without causing damage, while six others landed on the PMOI camp inside Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base.
The sources said the rockets were fired from an area west of the airport. One of the sources, based at the airport, said flights had been suspended as a precautionary measure, but state television quoted a source as saying air traffic had not been interrupted.
PMOI, also known by its Farsi name Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO), sided with Saddam Hussein during Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s but fell out of favor with Baghdad after he was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The remaining Iranian dissidents, who seek the overthrow of Iran’s clerical leaders, were moved to Camp Liberty in 2012.
Kerry said the United States was committed to assisting the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in relocating all of the camp’s residents “to a permanent and safe location outside of Iraq.”
Reporting by Baghdad bureau; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Michael Georgy, Gareth Jones and Ken Wills