BAGHDAD – Iraq’s prime minister ordered an investigation Monday into the slaying of half of the roughly 100 remaining residents at an Iranian dissident camp north of Baghdad, where a U.N. team got its first look at the aftermath of the large-scale bloodshed.

The promised probe will do little to appease backers of the more than 3,000 exiles left inside Iraq who believe they remain targets in a country whose government wants them gone.

Supporters of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq members living at Camp Ashraf insist that the Saddam Hussein-era facility came under attack Sunday from Iraqi forces. Iraqi officials have denied involvement, with some suggesting there was an internal dispute at the camp.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office said a special committee is being set up to investigate what happened at the camp, located about 60 miles northeast of the Iraqi capital.

In a statement, it said the Iraqi government is committed to ensuring the safety of people living within its borders. But the terse remarks also made clear Baghdad’s impatience with resolving the MEK issue, stressing “the necessity of transferring the MEK members who are staying in Iraq illegally.”

The MEK opposes Iran’s clerical regime and until last year was labeled a terrorist group by the United States. It carried out a series of bombings and assassinations inside Iran in the 1980s and fought alongside Iraqi forces in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Saddam granted several thousand of its members sanctuary inside Iraq.

Iraq’s current government is dominated by Shiites hostile to the former regime who have been bolstering ties with neighboring Shiite powerhouse Iran. They consider the MEK’s presence in Iraq illegal and have been trying to expel its followers for years.

Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the MEK’s parent organization, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, blames the Iraqi government for the killings and says it has no place investigating what happened.

“We have absolutely no confidence in this investigation. None whatsoever,” Gobadi said.

A U.N. team visited the camp Monday, but that visit was intended to be “on humanitarian grounds, to assess where we can assist,” said U.N. spokeswoman Eliana Nabaa.

The U.N. mission to Iraq does not have a mandate to conduct a formal investigation, she said.

Camp Ashraf is largely cut off from the outside world. The little face-to-face contact its residents have with outsiders is mainly through the Iraqi military, visiting diplomats and aid agencies.

Iraqi police were able to enter the camp Monday and have begun to investigate the incident, said Jamil al-Shimari, the police chief of Diyala province, where the camp is located.

He confirmed that 52 people had been killed inside the camp, the first time an Iraqi official has provided a death toll that matched that provided by representatives for the exiles. Some of the bodies had bullet wounds and others were burnt, he said.


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