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IRAQ: Officials warn of displacement following attacks

ARBIL, 28 May 2006 (IRIN) - Humanitarian workers in northern Iraq have voiced concerns over reports of displaced villagers on the borders of Turkey and Iran as a result of recent shelling.

“There’s a great probability of a rise in the number of displaced people and a humanitarian disaster as the attacks escalate,” said Abdul-Majid Shukri, head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) in the northern Dahuk governorate.

Click here to enlarge image
Fearing further shelling members of a family in Razga are packing
their belongings ready to leave the area.
  ©  Azad Lashkari/IRIN

According to Mazin Mohammed, Mayor of Amadiya, a border district between Iraq and Turkey, a number of villagers in Dahuk have fled their homes after shelling from Turkish troops. Eyewitnesses in the area say that Turkish military units have crossed the border and were currently positioned 500 meters inside Iraqi territory.

The Turkish government acknowledges that it has reinforced its presence on the frontier, with some estimates suggesting there could be as many as 250,000 Turkish troops on the border. Ankara denies, however, that any of its soldiers have crossed into Iraq.

Local officials and aid agencies in the area, meanwhile, say that more than 200 families have been displaced amid fears of escalating bombardments, although no casualties have been reported so far. The assaults, especially those close to the border with Iran, have also served to interrupt the lively trade that has been a traditional source of livelihood for many local families, say officials.

According to officials in the district of Haji Omaran, shelling began on 21 April, when Iranian troops reportedly launched assaults on certain mountainous border areas in an attempt to subdue elements of an opposition group linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.

The PKK has been fighting for an autonomous homeland in Turkey for decades, leading to fierce battles between the two in the 1990s. Iran also reportedly fears the presence of the so-called Kurdistan Freedom Life Party, or PAJAK, which Tehran says has links to the PKK.

While the scope of the assaults by Turkish and Iranian troops has been relatively limited until now, local officials fear worse is to come. “Local people are worried,” said Amadiya Mayor Mohammed by telephone. “They say that, if the shelling continues, they’ll abandon their villages.”

Although no relief measures have been taken so far, the IRCS says it plans to send aid to the displaced families who have resettled in nearby areas.


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