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Iraq camp violence kills Iranian exiles

| Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, 9:09 p.m.

BAGHDAD — Deadly violence erupted in a contentious Iranian exile camp inside Iraq early Sunday, leaving international observers scrambling to determine the cause of the bloodshed and the number of casualties.

The dissidents alleged that more than 50 were killed and accused the Iraqi government.

Baghdad said an internal dispute was to blame.

And the United Nations mission to Iraq, which has been closely involved in trying to find a viable long-term solution for the dissidents, acknowledges it does not have a clear picture of what happened.

“The only thing we can confirm is there are a lot of casualties,” said Eliana Nabaa, the spokeswoman for the U.N. mission to Iraq. “How, why, when? It's difficult to assess.”

If the exiles' claims of the number of casualties prove to be true, it would mark a stunning blow for the remaining core of Mujahedeen-e-Khalq members still living in Camp Ashraf.

The Saddam Hussein-era community northeast of Baghdad had been home to only about 100 members of the MEK before Sunday.

The MEK opposes Iran's clerical regime and until last year was labeled a terrorist group by the United States.

Thousands of other MEK members who had been living in Camp Ashraf agreed to move to a Baghdad-area camp last year. They remain stuck in a country that does not want them as a process to resettle them abroad drags on.

A statement issued by the U.N. in New York said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplores events at Camp Ashraf that “reportedly left 47 killed,” though the U.N. cautioned that figure had not been confirmed.

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