Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Three Iran Guards Killed in Kurdish Clash

Three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were killed in a clash with Kurdish separatists in the country's restive western borderlands, Iran's student news agency ISNA said on Wednesday. READ MORE

The Revolutionary Guard "agents" were killed in fighting on Tuesday with a Kurdish group called PJAK. Their bodies were transferred from the border to the nearby city of Salmas, the report said.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment. Iran's Revolutionary Guards are an ideologically driven branch of the country's armed forces.

Security experts say PJAK is an Iranian wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) whose separatist struggle regained momentum in southeastern Turkey after it called off a unilateral ceasefire in the summer of 2004.

The PKK Web site said seven Iranian soldiers were killed and 11 injured in a clash with PKK guerrillas. It said Iranian forces launched an operation against the rebels on March 25 in an area it identified as Kelares, near the border between Iran and Turkey. It said there were no PKK casualties.

It was not immediately clear if the two reports were referring to the same incident.

Iran's western cities, home of the country's Kurdish minority, have simmered with tension since July when riots erupted in a city in the area. There have been several civilian and police deaths in violence since then.

Iranian officials have said the violence was not ethnically motivated but Kurdish leaders say Tehran's discriminatory treatment of their people is stirring unrest.

Kurds consist 6 million of Iran's 67 million population, many of whom live in the mountainous northwest bordering Iraq and Turkey, also home of Kurdish minorities.