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5/3/06

IRAQ: Kurdish families flee as Iran shells rebel positions

SULAIMANIYA, 2 May 2006 (IRIN) - About 200 families fled their homes on the Iraq-Iran border on Monday as Iranian forces shelled areas used by Iranian-Kurdish rebels, according to Kurdish officials.

"The shelling began on Sunday and continued until Monday morning," said Azad Waso Hassan, member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the area. "If the shelling continues, the area will witness a humanitarian crisis."

Hassan added that about 1,500 people from several villages in and around Sulaimaniyah, some 260km north-east of Baghdad, had been forced to flee as a result of the violence.

"Bombs shook our houses that night; we thought we wouldn't see the sun again," said Qader Ali, a 43 year-old farmer forced to flee his home along with five family members. "We suffered under Saddam, and continue to suffer now - the government must do something to help us," added Ali, who is currently staying at his brother's house in a nearby village.

According to Hassan, more than 180 artillery rounds were fired into the area, many of which landed near the Iraqi village of Haj Umran outside of Erbil, roughly 5km inside Iraqi territory. No casualties were reported in either attack. Iranian forces reportedly launched a similar artillery barrage in the area on 21 April.

Kurdish rebels have recently staged attacks against Iranian army and Revolutionary Guard positions from territory in Iraq. In response, Teheran has reportedly massed troops on the border, near the mountainous areas close to Haj Umran, which has been used in the past by anti-Iranian fighters thought to be linked to the militant Turkish Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS), meanwhile, has said it has no specific reports about those displaced by the shelling. "But we have sent blankets, food and other things to help these families," said IRCS Director Dr Saad Haqi.


The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

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