Baghdad: Iraq-based Iranian rebels who lost 34 members in a clash with the Iraqi Army this month were barred from burying the dead at a cemetery inside their base, spokesmen for both sides said on Sunday.
The People`s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) wanted to bury the bodies at a graveyard within Camp Ashraf, which houses around 3,500 opponents of the clerical regime in Tehran, but were prevented from doing so by Iraqi soldiers responsible for securing the camp.
"The cemetery is under the control of the Iraqi Army, so if the mujahedeen come to bury their dead, there will be disputes," said an official at Baquba Operations Command in Diyala province north of Baghdad, where Camp Ashraf is located.
"We have already asked them to bury the corpses outside the cemetery, but inside Camp Ashraf," added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
PMOI spokesman Shahriar Kia confirmed by telephone that residents had tried to bury the dead at Ashraf`s graveyard but were barred from doing so.
"In fact, the only place that residents of the camp are demanding their friends and relatives be buried is that public cemetery," he said, adding that the 34 bodies were being kept at a clinic within the camp.
The United Nations mission in Iraq has called on Baghdad to immediately start an independent inquiry into the April 08 raid on Ashraf, and has expressed "deep concern" over the incident.
Iraqi security forces raided Ashraf as tensions between camp residents and the authorities reached new heights. Baghdad said three people were killed in the clashes.
The United Nations said that most of the victims were killed by gunshots, but government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh denied that the Iraqi military carried out the killings. He said Baghdad would hold its own investigation.
Iraq said after the raid that the PMOI must leave the country by the end of the year.
The left-wing PMOI was founded in 1965 to oppose the shah of Iran, but after the Islamic revolution in 1979 it took up arms against the clerical regime. The group is on the US government terrorist list.
Camp Ashraf was disarmed following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and has become a mounting problem for Iraqi authorities since American forces handed over security for the camp last year.