ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The body of a senior official from an Iranian Kurdish opposition party was found dead on Saturday in a hotel room in Erbil bearing signs of torture, according to a statement from the party accusing Iran of the murder.
The official belonged to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) and has been a Peshmerga fighter for 22 years.
Mousa Babakhani, a member of the party’s central committee “was assassinated at the hands of the Islamic Republic in Erbil,” the party’s media outlet published on Saturday.
The statement added that Babakhani’s body was found at the Guli Sulaimani hotel in Erbil showing “serious marks of torture.” They claim the opposition leader was “kidnapped by two terrorists of the Islamic Republic on Thursday.”
Kurdistan internal security forces, known as Asayish, confirmed in a statement that the body belonged to Babakhani and that an investigation is underway to determine the circumstances of his death.
The KDP-I is a Kurdish party that in 2006 split from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), which has waged an on-and-off armed war against the Iranian government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Both parties are headquartered in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq like other Kurdish armed groups opposed to Iran.
This is not the first targeting of an official in the party. A senior commander of the party, Qadir Qadiri, was found dead in March 2018 in Hartal village, Ranya district, near Sulaimani’s border with Iran. He had been shot 21 times. The KDP-I claimed Qadiri killing was ordered by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Erbil’s criminal court last week sentenced three people to death in relation to the murder. The other two convicted in the case did not confess to their involvement and were sentenced under Iraq’s penal code regarding giving false information or withholding information.
Iranian forces have sporadically shelled the Region’s border areas over the years, targeting bases belonging to the Kurdish opposition groups from Iran, including the KDP and KDP-I.
The IRGC fired surface-to-surface missiles in September 2018, striking the Kurdistan Region camps of the KDPI and KDP-I, while they were holding leadership meetings which killed 17 and injured 46.