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Kurdish militants
attack Iran troops

PJAK claimed it hit an IRGC barracks, while Iran said Basij troops had been killed.

Kurdish PJAK militants. (AFP/Safin Hamed)

BEIRUT – The militant Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) has claimed a new attack against Iranian troops as a tenuous ceasefire between the PKK-affiliated group and Tehran continues to disintegrate.

 

PJAK’s armed wing, the East Kurdistan Defense Units (YRK), issued a statement Thursday that its fighters had killed 12 Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) troops outside the western Iranian town of Sanandaj, the main city for the country’s Kurdish minority population.

 

“[The operation] was a response to the Iranian authorities’ execution of a Kurdish political activist days ago,” the statement added, in reference to the August 9 execution of Sirvan Najavi—who was accused of collaborating with PJAK—in Tabriz Central Prison.  

 

PJAK claimed that its latest attack had targeted an IRGC base near the mountainous Shaho area in the Hewraman district of Iran’s Kurdistan province, which lies along the border with Iraq.

 

The Iranian press acknowledged the attack—the second in the past week—but denied that IRGC troops had been killed.

 

Instead, Iran’s semi-official IRNA news agency reported that five members of the country’s Basij paramilitary force had been “martyred” in clashes with “counter-revolutionary” forces.

 

PJAK—which started a small scale insurgency in Iran in 2004—has maintained an uneasy truce with Tehran since 2011, when it reportedly withdrew its forces to be replaced by those of the PKK, the main Kurdish separatist party based in Turkey that is linked to PJAK.

 

However, intermittent fighting has challenged the fragile ceasefire since 2011, most notably since the spring of 2015.

 

In May, PJAK claimed to have killed an IRGC officer after an Iranian counterinsurgency operation. Three months later, the armed group said it launched a large raid in the Kermanshah province that left 13 Iranian soldiers dead, including an IRGC commander.

 

Most recently, PJAK’s armed wing on August 6 claimed to have killed 20 soldiers outside the town of Mariwan, however Iran has officially denied the attack took place.

 

A PJAK official told Asharq Alawsat that his party has increased the tempo of its operations in the past three months in “response to Iran’s [treatment] of ethnic groups” and its refusal to grant “political, social and cultural rights.”

 

“The Kurds, Arabs and Baloch have for years been subjected to repression, torture, and execution, while their identities and cultural rights have been ignored,” he added.

Kurdish PJAK militants. (AFP/Safin Hamed)

The Kurds, Arabs and Baloch have for years been subjected to repression, torture, and execution, while their identities and cultural rights have been ignored.