Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that they had now cleared northwestern Iran’s border area of armed Kurdish rebels, who are based in Iraq.
“Following numerous and powerful operations against the PJAK terrorist group, the Revolutionary Guards were able to clean the northwestern border area of this terrorist group…,” said the Guards’ website Sepahnews, quoting the Commander of the Guards forces in that area, Brigadier General Mohammad Taqi Osanlou.
“During these operations heavy losses were inflicted on anti-Revolutionaries forcing them to leave our nation’s soil … (and) once again security returned to the northwestern areas,” the commander added.
Since July Tehran has been carrying out a major offensive against the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK). The forces have been shelling districts near the border in northern Iraq for weeks, killing dozens including the rebel’s deputy commander.
They halted only during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, while the rebel group called for a truce two weeks ago.
Dozens of casualties have also been reportedly inflicted on the Guards.
The Guards, supported by the army’s ground forces, resumed the offensive on September 2, rejecting a ceasefire call by PJAK and saying the Kurdish rebels had no choice but to lay down arms or leave the border areas.
Iran accuses Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region of providing the PJAK with a vast safe haven along the border.
Despite protests from Baghdad, Iranian military officials have declared their intention to keep up the offensive until Iraqi forces are deployed to the border region to prevent the rebels from launching attacks against Iran.
Saeed Khan, a senior PJAK official, told AFP in Iraq on Monday that they had left Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region because it had issued a call for a ceasefire and did not want to put local civilians in danger.
“That does not mean we are afraid of Iran, and we are ready to repel any attacks,” he said. “We are now located in Iranian land.”
The PJAK, labelled as terrorists by Tehran, has often clashed with Iranian forces in recent years, drawing retaliatory bombing of their rear bases in the mountainous border districts of Iraqi Kurdistan.