BAGHDAD (AP) — The first group of exiles from an Iranian opposition group have moved to Albania from a former U.S. military base near Baghdad as part of a relocation process, the United Nations mission to Iraq said Thursday.
In a statement, U.N. envoy Martin Kobler said 14 members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq arrived in Albania late Wednesday, the first of 210 set to travel to new homes in Albania.
Last year about 3,000 MEK exiles were moved from their decades-long home in northeastern Iraq to a refugee camp outside Baghdad at the former U.S. base, part of an effort to ensure their peaceful departure from Iraq.
The MEK, or the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, opposes Tehran’s clerical regime. It carried out assassinations and bombings in Iran until renouncing violence in 2001. Several thousand of its members were given sanctuary in Iraq by dictator Saddam Hussein, who was deposed in 2003.
The Shiite-led government in Baghdad that replaced Saddam’s regime is bolstering its ties with Iran. It considers the MEK a terrorist group and wants its members out of the country. The MEK fought alongside Saddam’s forces in the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, and its members fear persecution and death if they return to Iran.
Kobler described the transfer of the first group as “an encouraging first step in the relocation of the group of 210 residents the Albanian government has agreed to receive.”
Phone calls to reach Iraqi government and MEK officials went answered. There was no immediate comment from Albania.
Seven people were killed in a rocket attack on the MEK camp in early February. Later, the head of a Shiite militant group threatened to carry out more attacks on the camp if the MEK members refused to leave Iraq.
By The Associated Press
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