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Iraq Claims Shooting Down Iran Jet

March 15, 2000

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraqi anti-aircraft defenses shot down an unmanned Iranian plane Tuesday, the official Iraqi News Agency reported Wednesday.

INA said the plane was downed on Tuesday morning. It did not say why the authorities delayed the announcement until Wednesday.

``Our heroic air defenses and army units ... shot down the drone after violating our national skies,″ the agency said.

Iran had no immediate reaction to the claim.

This was the first such report since 1992, when an Iranian warplane was shot down after it bombed an Iranian dissident camp north of Baghdad.

Iran and Iraq fought a ruinous eight-year war that ended in 1988, and continued strained relations are exacerbated by the presence of Iranian dissidents in Iraq and Iraqi dissidents in Iran.

The report came one day after an Iraqi-based opposition group claimed that Iranian jets tried to bomb its military camp in Iraq but were driven off by air defense units. On Monday, the group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, claimed its militants in Iran were responsible for a mortar attack on Tehran.

INA said the drone was shot down close to the border town of Khaniqeen about 75 miles northeast of Baghdad, not far from the Mujahedeen Khalq camp at Anzali.

The Mujahedeen Khalq has several such border camps equipped with tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopter gunships.

Guerrillas of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq are based in Iran and frequently cross the border for attacks.

In 1992, Iranian warplanes bombed an Iranian rebel base near Baghdad in the first air strike by Iran on Iraqi territory since 1988. Iraq claimed its forces shot down one of eight Iranian fighter-bombers and captured the two-man crew.

More than a decade after the end of their war, Iran and Iraq have yet to settle issues related to border demarcation and reparations. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire ended the fighting, but a peace treaty was never signed. Baghdad says Iran still holds thousands of Iraqi prisoners of war; Iran in turn accuses Iraq of keeping thousands of its fighters prisoner.

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