Iranian Commander Killed in Clashes With Kurdish Rebels

Posted July 22nd, 2011 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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Iran says a Revolutionary Guards commander and five force members have been killed in clashes with Kurdish rebels in the northwest.

The semi-official Fars news agency said Friday that the commander, identified as General Abbas Asemi, died in an explosion. He had been overseeing operations in the province of Qom. The news agency did not say when the deaths occurred.

Iran launched a major offensive against militants in the border region near Iraq last week.

On Monday, Iran said the Revolutionary Guards had taken control of three bases of a Kurdish opposition group in the region.

Guard Colonel Delavar Ranjbarzadeh claimed “a large number'' of deaths of opposition group forces during fighting over the borders. The report could not be independently confirmed.

The hours-long gunbattle between militants from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan and Iranian forces ended early Sunday. It had erupted near the Kurdish town of Sardasht.

The Kurdish militant group, known as PJAK, has been involved in sporadic clashes with Iranian forces in recent years and says it is fighting for greater rights.

The deadly clashes came nearly a week after the Iranian military had threatened to attack the group's bases in neighboring Iraq. PJAK rebels said the fighting had spilled over into Iraq's Sulaimaniyah Province.

Iran routinely shells border districts of northern Iraq's Kurdish region, targeting PJAK bases.