An Iranian opposition group says a camp housing its members in Iraq has been officially closed after the last 280 residents were flown to Albania
BAGHDAD (AP) - A camp housing members of an Iranian opposition group in Iraq was officially closed after the last 280 residents were flown to Albania on Friday, the group said.
The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq has been based in Iraq since the 1980s, when they received arms and support from Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. U.S.-led forces disarmed the group after the 2003 invasion and settled them at a base north of Baghdad.
The Iranian opposition group, whose members who were flown out of Iraq Friday, was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department for years over its killing of Americans. The MEK was also accused of taking part in the brutal suppression of a 1991 Shiite uprising against Saddam, allegations denied by the group.
The MEK says it renounced violence in 2001. The U.S. military in Iraq signed an agreement with the group in 2004, promising that members would be treated as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The State Department removed the group from its list of terrorist organizations in 2012.
On Friday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau thanked the governments of Albania and Iraq.
"We are grateful to the Government of Iraq for facilitating the departure of the MEK. And we are specially appreciative of the extraordinary efforts of the Albanian Government, the Albanian Prime Minister Rama, to welcome these people who are in need of international protection," Trudeau said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon thanked member states and international organizations for "the successful resolution of this humanitarian issue," in statement issued by his spokesman.
Iraqi forces raided Camp Ashraf, the group's longtime base north of Baghdad, in 2009, shortly after U.S.-led forces handed over responsibility for the camp to the Iraqi government. The group was later relocated to a former military base in the capital.
Over the past six years, armed groups periodically attacked the camps, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 MEK members. The United Nations was concerned about the security of remaining members as long as they were in Iraq, where elements of the government and pro-Iranian militias were hostile to them.
More than 20 members were killed in a missile attack on their camp last year. In September 2013 at least 52 people were shot dead in Camp Ashraf, in what the MEK said was an attack by Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi government blamed the violence on an internal dispute. In April 2011 clashes erupted during an Iraqi army raid on Camp Ashraf, killing 34 people, according to the U.N.