Elite Iraqi troops are preparing to attack Kurdish areas outside Baghdad's control in the north of the country, the Iraqi Communist Party said Saturday, adding that the offensive was imminent.
"The task of carrying it out has been assigned to the 12th Division of the Republican Guards, which has units deployed in the areas facing Chamchamal, in addition to heavy artillery units and the air force," the party said in a statement received by AFP in Dubai.
"The attack is imminent," it said quoting sources linked to the Iraqi regime and reports from zones close the line separating areas of Kurdistan which have escaped Baghdad's rule since the 1991 Gulf war.
President Saddam Hussein was "preparing to wage an aggressive attack directed in particular against the region and city of Suleimaniyeh," said the London-based group, which is banned in Iraq.
The unconfirmed report comes at a time of heightened tension in the region after Iraq accused Kuwait of stealing oil on September 14, the same charge which sparked Baghdad's 1990 invasion of the emirate.
US forces bombarded Iraq with Cruise missiles in September 1996 to punish Saddam for attacking Kurdistan, his last offensive against the Kurds.
Saddam lost control of the region in a uprising which followed the Gulf war and the Kurds have since enjoyed aerial protection by US and British fighters patrolling a "no-fly" zone to keep Iraqi forces in check.
Two main rival Kurdish factions have set up "governments" in Kurdistan.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) controls the Suleimaniyeh region, bordering Iran.
Iraqi Kurdistan as a whole has a population of about three million, according to the last census dating back to 1986 - DUBAI (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )