An Iranian Kurdish party is blaming Tehran for the killing this month of a senior party member in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

Mousa Babakhani was found dead in a hotel room in Erbil on August 5, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) said.

“With great sorrow we confirm that on the evening of Thursday, August 5, Mr Mousa Babakhani, member of Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Central Committee, was assassinated by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s terrorists in Erbil,” the party said on its website.

It said Babakhani’s body bore signs of torture and was discovered two days after he was kidnapped by “two terrorists affiliated to the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Iraqi Kurdistan’s security service, the Asaish, on Facebook confirmed Babakhani’s death and announced an investigation. On Sunday, it identified the main suspect as Sarmad Dawood Abd Ali, also know as Saman Ilami, and said he escaped to Iran on the day of the killing. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Other Iranian Kurdish parties and human rights organisations condemned Babakhani’s killing and called for investigations by the United Nations, the United States and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The KDP-I is a faction of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) that broke away in 2006. The parties share the same name and logo

Babakhani, born in 1981, was from Kermanshah, a Kurdish city in western Iran, and joined the KDPI in 1999.

Iraq has not commented officially on the allegation that it was involved in his death.

The KDPI declared war against the Iranian government after the 1979 revolution and is among several Iranian Kurdish parties whose fighters attack Iranian and Turkish forces from their bases in the mountainous border areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. Tehran and Ankara retaliate by shelling these areas and targeting their leaders and activists. In September 2018, missiles fired by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hit a KDPI base in Koya district of Erbil province, killing 11 people and wounding 30 others.

Ali Shamkhani, the head of Iran’s top national security body, has previously asked Iraq to expel the Iranian Kurdish groups. The KRG has frequently asked these parties to not use its territory to launch attacks.

The KDPI, founded in Mahabad, Iran, in August 1945, was banned by the Iranian government after the 1979 revolution.

The party’s founder, Qazi Muhammad, declared the Kurdish Republic of Kurdistan in January 1946, and became president of the first Kurdish state. The Iranian government reclaimed Mahabad in December 1946 after the former Soviet Union turned its back on the Kurds. Muhammad was arrested and executed in March 1947.

In July 1989, the KDPI secretary general Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou was shot dead in the Austrian capital, Vienna. His successor, Mohammed Sadiq Sharafkandi, was killed in a restaurant in Berlin in 1992. No one was tried for the Ghassemlou killing, but a German court convicted two Iranians for the assassination of Sharafkandi.

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