Iran says Kurdish rebel deputy chief killed

AFP , Wednesday 7 Sep 2011

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards kill rebel Kurd leader Majid Kavian, deputy commander of the Kurdish anti-government group

Iranian forces have killed the deputy commander of PJAK, the anti-Tehran Kurdish rebel group based in Iraq, the Islamic republic's elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday.

"Majid Kavian, deputy commander of the terrorist (Party of Free Life of Kurdistan) PJAK group, with the alias of Samakou Sarhaldan, was killed on Saturday," the Guards said in a statement on its website Sepahnews.

The report did not elaborate on the circumstances of his death, but quoting a statement attributed to PJAK, the Guards said Kavian "was killed by artillery shrapnel."

Kavian had been engaged in "terrorist operations inside Iran" since 2003, according to the Guards.

In July, Iran launched a major offensive against PJAK rebels, shelling districts near Iraq's border for weeks, but halted it during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to give the rebels a chance to withdraw from border areas.

The Guards resumed the offensive on Friday, with their operations officer Colonel Hamid Ahmadi saying the fighting would "continue until all counter-revolutionaries, rebels and terrorists have been cleared away."

According to the Guards, so far more than 30 PJAK rebels have been killed and 40 wounded in the second wave of attacks, while Iran has suffered two casualties.

On Monday, PJAK declared a truce and called on Iran to reciprocate in order to prevent further bloodshed.

Iran responded a day later, saying Iraq's Kurdish autonomous government, which is acting as a mediator, must clarify the details of the truce before making a decision.

"Since the content of the unilateral ceasefire announced by the PJAK terrorist group is not clear-cut, the government of the autonomous (Iraqi) Kurdistan region which mediated this act should clarify the intention of the ceasefire as soon as possible," the Guards said.

PJAK rebels have engaged in numerous clashes with Iranian forces in recent years, drawing retaliatory bombing of their rear-bases in mountainous border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In mid-August, Turkey began its own campaign of shelling and air raids against bases of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Kurdistan, which has ties with the PJAK.

Tehran has accused neighbouring Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region of creating a safe haven for terrorists, and has rejected criticism from Baghdad that Iran should stop the border shelling.

On Tuesday, the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Massud Barzani, called on Kurdish fighters to relinquish their armed rebellion, and instead seek their goals through diplomacy.

"We are in a difficult situation because there are two countries (Iran and Turkey) telling us to control our borders so there will be no problems," Barzani said in Arbil.

But "we are afraid to send forces to the borders for fear of a Kurdish-Kurdish war," he said.

"I call on the two sides to stop the idea of getting their rights through military means."

Human Rights Watch meanwhile has criticised Iran over its military operation, saying it had evidence its forces may have deliberately targeted civilians.

It also accused Turkey of failing to take adequate precautions to protect civilians in its campaign of shelling and air raids against suspected bases of PKK rebels in northern Iraq.

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