World News

Leaflets said to warn of Iran move into north Iraq

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq (Reuters) - Kurdish authorities in northeastern Iraq said on Tuesday they were investigating the authenticity of leaflets warning villagers to evacuate ahead of an Iranian military offensive against Kurdish rebels.

Hundreds of villagers have fled their homes in Iraq’s mountainous northeast while others hid in caves after what local authorities said was days of intermittent shelling by Iran across the border.

So far there has been no official comment from either Tehran or Baghdad about the shelling.

Cross-border skirmishes occasionally occur as Iraq’s neighbours Turkey and Iran combat Kurdish separatist rebels operating from bases in Iraq’s mountainous and remote north and northeast.

The government of Iraq’s largely autonomous region of Kurdistan said it was investigating after villagers said they had seen the leaflets thrown from helicopters on Monday.

Residents said there were no identifying marks on the leaflets, written in Kurdish, apart from the words “The Islamic Republic of Iran” across the top and bottom.

The leaflets said villagers had 48 hours to evacuate before an Iranian offensive began.

“They do not carry an official stamp of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iranian Defence Ministry,” said Jamal Abdullah, a spokesman for the Kurdish government.

“These leaflets made many people leave their homes.”

The leaflets said the offensive would be around the villages of Qandoul, Haj Omran and Isaw and the town of Qal’at Dizah, 325 km north of Baghdad.

Two women have been wounded, livestock killed, farms and orchards set ablaze and homes damaged in the shelling near small villages across a front of about 50 km, local officials have said in the past three days.

On Saturday, the Iranian news agency Mehr said an Iranian army helicopter which crashed near the border of northern Iraq had been engaged in an operation against the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since 1984, when it launched its struggle for an ethnic homeland in Turkey’s southeast.