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Iranian opposition bury dead fighters outside Baghdad

BAGHDAD, June 10 (AFP) - Six Iranian opposition fighters killed along with an Iraqi civilian in a truck bombing were to be laid to rest Thursday at a military base of the People's Mujahedeen, the group said.

They were blown up Wednesday on the edge of Baghdad in the deadliest attack on the group inside Iraq since 1986 which also wounded 21 Mujahedeen combatants and 15 Iraqi civilians.

One of the fighters was fighting for his life in hospital, a spokesman for the group said.

The Iraqi government and People's Mujahedeen, the main armed Iranian opposition movement, both accused the Iranian government of being behind the attack.

"Agents of the Iranian regime committed a hideous terrorist criminal operation near the Hammad Shihab hospital northeast of Baghdad by blowing up a booby-trapped vehicle parked on the side of the road," Iraqi state television quoted an information ministry spokesman as saying.

"Innocent Iraqis were among the victims of this cowardly act, not to mention victims from the People's Mujahedeen," the Iraqi spokesman said. "We strongly condemn and denounce this sinful criminal act and hold the Iranian regime responsible for it."

A pick-up truck exploded 15 kilometres (nine miles) north of the capital as the fighters were being bussed to the Mujahedeen's Ashraf camp.

An Iraqi on a bus on the other side of the road was also killed and 15 others hurt.

The pick-up was loaded with almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives, a Mujahedeen munitions expert told AFP.

The group's spokesman blamed "terrorists sent by the Iranian regime" for the attack, which came two months after the group assassinated a top general outside his home in Tehran.

It was the 24th attack carried out by Iranian agents since moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami was elected as Iran's president in May 1997, according to the Mujahedeen, and the 75th in the last six years.

Mujahedeen leader Massud Rajavi issued a call for UN chief Kofi Annan "to take urgent measures to halt the crimes of the mullahs outside Iran" and urged Baghdad to close down the Iranian embassy.

The Mujahedeen, which has been based in Iraq since 1986 and mounts cross-border raids, regularly accuses Iran of attacks. Two bombs exploded near its Baghdad headquarters on Saturday, without causing casualties, it said.

At a Baghdad meeting in mid-May, the Mujahedeen leadership set a target of May 2001 for the overthrow of the Tehran government.

The Mujahedeen's deployment in Iraq, where it has five military bases, is a key obstacle to a normalisation in ties between Baghdad and Tehran, which fought a war between 1980 and 1988.

Iran hosts Iraqi Shiite opposition groups.


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