Iranian troops building fort in Iraq
By Asso Ahmed
The soldiers crossed into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas after a bomb attack. The fortifications suggest they plan to stay for a while, Kurdish officials say.
June 8, 2010
Reporting from Haj Omran, Iraq
Iranian troops pursuing Kurdish guerrillas in the remote mountains of northern Iraq have begun constructing a small fort in Iraqi territory, suggesting they plan on staying for a while, Kurdish officials said Tuesday.
A small Iranian force crossed into the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq on Thursday after a bomb attack that killed several Iranian soldiers. The assault was carried out by the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, an Iranian Kurdish militant movement based in northern Iraq that is known by its Kurdish acronym, PEJAK.
About 35 Iranians remained behind, in an area near the Perdunaz border crossing, and have since been observed building a fortified structure high on a mountain, said the Kurdish regional government's defense spokesman, Jaber Yawer.
From a nearby Kurdish observation post, two bulldozers, alongside a small tank, can be seen digging fortifications.
Iran also retaliated with artillery strikes, which last week killed a 14-year-old girl. There was renewed shelling of the area Tuesday, but most civilians have fled the area and no one was killed, Yawer said.
Though Iraq's Foreign Ministry has protested the attacks on civilians to the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad, there has been no outcry similar to the one that greeted Iranian troops' brief occupation last year of an oil well in southern Iraq.
In part, that may be because Iraq's politicians are distracted by the drawn-out process of forming a new government after March's inconclusive election.
The inaccessible wilderness of Iraq's northern border area has long been a hide-out for Kurdish fighters seeking autonomy for Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iran, drawing periodic incursions by the forces of both countries.
Ahmed is a special correspondent. Times staff writers Raheem Salman and Liz Sly in Baghdad contributed to this report.
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