Thousands of Iranian fighters in Iraq agree to surrender

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The United States has forced the Iranian opposition based in Iraq to disarm.

U.S. officials said thousands of Mujahadeen Khalq fighters located in northeastern Iraq have agreed to lay down their weapons. They said the Iranian opposition insurgents, surrounded by U.S. tanks, relayed their agreement amid heavy military pressure by the U.S. Army's V Corps.

The Mujahadeen has controlled five camps near the northern border with Iran. The bases, which contain tanks, artillery and armored vehicles, are around the city of Baqubah in the Diyala province, about 70 kilometers north of Baghdad.

About 4,000 Mujahadeen troops are believed to be located in the area, Middle East Newsline reported. They have been fighting the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade in northern Iraq.

The U.S. warning represents a policy shift for the Bush administration. On April 15, the U.S. military signed a truce with the Mujahadeen that allowed the Iranian opposition to keep its weapons. Over the last few weeks, the U.S. military has quietly used the Mujahadeen to block the entry of Iranian insurgents into northern Iraq.

But the State Department protested the use of the Mujahadeen and said this would endanger any chance of reconciliation with neighboring Iran.

"V Corps has accepted the voluntary consolidation of the Mujahedeen Khalq forces and subsequent control over these forces," V Corps said in a statement on late Saturday. "When this process is completed, it will significantly contribute to the coalition's mission to set the conditions that will establish a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq."

Officials said the Mujahadeen fighters will surrender all of their weapons. In exchange, they said, the Iranian opposition insurgents will be protected from neighboring Iran.

Teheran has pointed out that the Mujahadeen remains on the State Department list of terrorist groups.

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