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MKO: Iran's exiled armed opposition group
December 10, 2003
BAGHDAD, Dec 9, (AFP) -- The People's Mujahedeen, which Iraq's interim Governing Council decided unanimously Tuesday to expel from the country, is the leading Iranian opposition movement, whose "terrorist" epithet it strongly denies.
The council said in a statement it was taking the decision "because of the dark history of this terrorist organisation."
It did not say where the group's several thousand members in Iraq would be sent when they were expelled, but that its offices would be closed and its arms and financial resources confiscated.
The money would "be given to the compensation fund for victims of the former fascist regime" of Saddam Huusein.
Several thousand Mujahedeen militiamen were disarmed by US forces following the fall of Baghdad in April and barred from undertaking military operations.
Around 4,000-5,000 people were grouped in Camp Ashraf, the main Mujahedeen base in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. The US army announced in September that it had detained 3,856 of its members.
They were also bombed by the US-led coalition during the Iraq war, but in early May it reached a truce with US forces.
The Mujahedeen were given sanctuary by Saddam in 1986 after being driven out of Iran in the wake of a vicious power struggle following the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The group has been classed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department, the European Union and the Iranian government, but says it is merely fighting oppression under the Islamic regime in Tehran.
Tehran had demanded that US forces hand over the opposition fighters in Iraq and warned that they should not be used "as a pressure lever."
A Shiite and Marxist-inspired movement, the group took part in the 1979 Islamic revolution to overthrow the shah but was then forced into exile after clashes with the new regime that cost thousands of lives.
It continued to fight with bomb attacks and assassinations inside Iran, but never posed a serious threat to the regime, despite spectacular strikes against oil pipelines and the mausoleum of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Mujahedeen stepped up their operations after Mohammad Khatami was elected president in 1997, claiming the 1999 assassination in Tehran of general Ali Sayad Shirazi, one of the highest-ranking army officers at the time.
After his election, Khatami demanded that Western powers oust the Mujahedeen. For its part, the movement urged these same powers to sever ties with Tehran.
Iran's leadership considers Mujahedeen leader Massoud Rajavi "a terrorist with blood on his hands", while Rajavi spares no opportunity to attack what he calls "the mullahs' inhuman regime."
The People's Mujahedeen were created in 1965 as a splinter group of Mehdi Bazargan's Iran Freedom Movement. All of its founding members died behind bars under the shah.
After France expelled Massoud Rajavi, the Mujahedeen set up bases in Iraq in 1986 following an agreement with Saddam, who was then in the thick of an eight-year war with Iran, and created the Iranian National Liberation Army (INLA).
According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, it had some 15,000 fighters, who lived under stringent rules and revered their leader and his wife, Maryam, presented as "the future first lady of Iran".
Born in Tehran in 1953, Maryam was joint leader of the Mujahedeen in the late 1980s but resigned after being made president-elect for a future Iranian government by the NCRI in 1993.
Branded "the hypocrites" by Tehran, the Mujahedeen regularly reported attacks against its bases, as well as incursions of its own into Iran.
The whereabouts of Massoud Rajavi remain unkown, according to diplomatic sources, but Mujahedeen spokesmen insist he is still in Iraq. http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=20459&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs