( Bloomberg ) - Iran's Revolutionary Guards killed 17 militants who entered West Azerbaijan province, bordering Turkey and Iraq, the military said. Four soldiers also died.
The rebels crossed into Iran ``to attempt sabotage,'' the official Islamic Republic News Agency cited Colonel Jalil Babazadeh, a Guards commander, as saying today without giving details of where the militants originated.
In northwestern Iran, troops frequently clash with Kurdish rebels, most of them from the Party of Free Life in Kurdistan, or PJAK. Kurdish fighters said they were behind the crash of a military helicopter in which 14 soldiers died during a Feb. 23 operation in West Azerbaijan near Turkey. Three days later, troops killed three PJAK chiefs, Agence France-Presse said.
Armed forces may chase Kurdish rebels beyond Iran's territory, including into neighboring Iraq if the government in Baghdad doesn't expel the militants from the border area, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Rahim Safavi, warned yesterday. The Guards are the military unit most loyal to the Shiite Muslim clerics who control Iran.
Ethnic Kurds across a contiguous area that includes parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey have sought self-determination for the region, which they call Kurdistan.