BAGHDAD – Thirty-four Iranian exiles were killed when Iraqi soldiers stormed Camp Ashraf last week, a U.N. spokesman said Thursday in the first independent death toll of the raid that has drawn sharp rebukes from Baghdad’s Western allies.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville in Geneva said a team of U.N. observers saw 28 bodies still at the camp during a Wednesday visit to the exiles’ compound in eastern Diyala province. Most of the bodies appeared to have been shot, he said.
Three of the bodies appeared to have been crushed to death, a Western diplomat in Baghdad said — likely from being run over by a car.
“It’s clearly a very serious incident and we are trying to get more information,” Colville said. Women were among the dead, he said.
He said six bodies have still not been found.
The raid targeted the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, which seeks to overthrow Iran’s clerical leaders. The group won refuge at Camp Ashraf years ago during the regime of Saddam Hussein, who saw them as a convenient ally against Iran. But since then, the exiles have been an irritant to Iraq’s new Shiite-led government that is trying to bolster ties with Tehran.
After Saddam fell, U.S. troops took control of Camp Ashraf, disarmed its fighters and confined the resident to their 30-square-mile camp. In return, the military signed the agreement with the camp’s residents giving them protected status under the Geneva Conventions.