x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kurd rebels claim to have killed 7 Iranian soldiers

Kurdish rebels based in north Iraq Monday claimed to have killed seven Iranian soldiers in clashes last week near the Islamic republic's border with Iraqi Kurdistan.

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq // Kurdish rebels based in north Iraq Monday claimed to have killed seven Iranian soldiers in clashes last week near the Islamic republic's border with Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, known as PJAK, said two of its fighters had died in the August 22 clashes near the Sardasht border area, populated by Iran's Kurdish minority, apparently the first such deadly violence between the two sides since April 2012.

"Iranian forces...attacked and swept the area near Sardasht," the PJAK said in a statement.

"Severe fighting erupted between the two forces...which led to the killing of seven Iranian soldiers," it said, adding that two PJAK fighters also died.

PJAK rebels, labeled as "terrorists" by Iran, have often clashed with Iranian forces, sparking retaliatory bombing of their rear bases in the mountainous border districts of neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan.

The clashes were the first account of a deadly conflict between the rebels and Iranian forces since PJAK fighters killed four members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards in April 2012.

It followed a summer-long offensive by Iranian forces against the rebel group in 2011, with the Guards saying in September of that year that they had forced the fighters out of northwestern Iran and killed more than 180 of them.

The following month, Iran's foreign minister declared the PJAK issue to be over.