3 Iranian troops killed in attack near Iraq border
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An attack near Iran’s western border with Iraq has killed three Iranian border guards, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Wednesday.
The troops were killed on Tuesday night while patrolling along the border in western Kermanshah province. A border outpost commander was among those killed, Fars quoted a local security official, Shahriar Heidari, as saying.
Heidari said an unspecified “terrorist group” was behind the attack but provided no details.
Iran has boosted border security amid the blitz offensive in neighboring Iraq by Sunni militants from the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The militants have snatched much of northern and western Iraq from the Baghdad government’s control.
Shiite Iran supports the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and has said it would consider any request for military aid, “within international law” and if Baghdad asks. On Sunday, Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he is against U.S. intervention in Iraq, insisting that said Iraq’s government and its people, with help of top clerics, would be able to end the “sedition” in the neighboring country.
Also Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham denied reports that the top commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, visited Iraq last week to consult with the government there on how to stave off the Sunni insurgents’ gains.
Soleimani’s forces are a secretive branch of the Guard, which in the past has allegedly organized Shiite militias to target U.S. troops in Iraq and, more recently, was involved in helping Syria’s President Bashar Assad in his fight against Sunni rebels.
“No Iranian military official, specifically Gen. Soleimani, as he himself has said, has visited Iraq now,” Afkham told reporters in Tehran. “I say it again, such reports are incorrect.”
There have been sporadic clashes in the past between Iranian troops and opposition groups in western Iran. The last time was in October 2013, when fighters from the armed Kurdish rebel group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan, or PEJAK, clashed with Iranian forces near the Iraq border.
However, PEJAK, which claims it is fighting for greater rights for Iran’s Kurdish community, has not been active in recent months.