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Truck bomb kills six Iranian opposition fighters in Iraq

BAGHDAD, June 9 (AFP) - A truck bomb killed six Iranian opposition fighters and wounded at least 36 people near Baghdad on Wednesday, in the deadliest attack on their group inside Iraq since 1986, the People's Mujahedeen said.

It immediately blamed Tehran for the carnage and said the Iranian embassy in Baghdad was implicated.

A spokesman for the armed group said a parked pick-up truck exploded as the fighters were being bussed out of Baghdad. The attack occurred 15 kilometres (nine miles) north of the capital en route to the Mujahedeen's Ashraf camp.

Two senior female militants and candidates for the organisation's leadership, Fariba Mozarmi and Massumah Goudarzi, were among the dead.

Most of the 23 wounded Mujahedeen fighters in the bus were being treated for facial injuries caused by flying glass, but two of them were in serious condition and fighting for their lives in hospital.

A busload of Iraqis on the other side of the road was also hit and at least 15 people were hurt, the spokesman said.

The pick-up was loaded with almost 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of explosives, a Mujahedeen munitions expert told AFP on an organized visit to the scene.

Its engine was flung 80 metres (yards) from the blast, which left a crater two metres (more than six feet) deep and three metres (10 feet) wide. The force of the explosion shattered windows of several buildings.

The Mujahedeen spokesman blamed "terrorists sent by the Iranian regime" for the attack, which came two months after the group assassinated a top general 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. In April, its fighters assassinated a top Iranian general outside his Tehran home.

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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