Baghdad: A senior Kurdish official in northern Iraq says Iranian troops have crossed the Iraqi border in pursuit of Iranian Kurdish rebels.
Jabar Yawar, a deputy minister in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, said Saturday that 35 Iranian soldiers remain in the Iraqi village of Perdunaz after crossing the border last Thursday.
Yawar said the Iranian troops have ventured about a mile (1.6 kilometers) into Iraq. Perdunaz is an Iraqi border town east of the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
He said Iranian troops have been shelling the region for days in pursuit of a Kurdish rebel group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PEJAK. Iran has previously targeted the border areas in pursuit of PEJAK fighters.
Iraq`s Defense Ministry declined comment.
Earlier gunmen killed a third candidate Saturday from the Sunni-backed coalition that won the most seats in Iraq`s March parliamentary election, a slaying that the alliance said was part of a politically motivated campaign of assassinations.
Gunmen broke into Faris Jassim al-Jubouri`s house in a village about 20 miles (35 kilometers) west of the northern city of Mosul at dawn and shot him multiple times, according to police and a morgue official. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the killing.
"This assassination is part of series of assassinations targeting members of the Iraqiya list, definitely for political reasons," said party spokeswoman Maysoun Damlouji. "The Iraqiya list does not want to escalate the situation, but we won`t sit silent over the killing of any Iraqi."
The secular Iraqiya coalition, headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, has been at the center of a political showdown over the March 7 parliamentary election, which did not produce a clear winner. Iraqiya`s rivals in two religious Shiite political blocs are trying to outmaneuver it to form the next government.
Iraqiya won just two more parliamentary seats than its closest rivals, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraqiya`s slim lead was largely thanks to Allawi`s outreach to Iraq`s disaffected Sunni minority, which lost its political dominance with Saddam Hussein`s 2003 ouster.
If they are left out of the next government, Sunnis could feel further alienated and violence directed at the government and security forces could increase, just as US forces are preparing for substantial troop withdrawals.
Al-Jubouri had not been expected to take a seat in the new parliament because Iraqiya failed to win enough votes.
He was the third Allawi-linked candidate to be gunned down in and around Mosul in recent months.
On May 24, gunmen firing from a car killed newly elected candidate Bashar Mohammed Hamid Ahmed as he was on his way home. He was the first new lawmaker killed since the election.
A female Iraqiya candidate, Suha Jarallah, was shot and killed in Mosul before the vote in early February.